For many people in Missouri, especially the 600,000 Republicans expected to vote in tomorrow’s GOP primary, the lesson of Ferguson is not that the police used too much force but too little, Politico reports. Ferguson to them was an embarrassment–preventable chaos that tarnished the name of the otherwise orderly St. Louis suburbs. They believe that the nightly images of lawlessness were an indictment of the weak-kneed way Democratic Governor Jay Nixon let protesters and outside agitators run amok, looting without apparent consequence.
The governor’s race, the first major statewide contest since the unrest, is the first chance Missourians have had to register anger that has grown since 2014. In conservative corners of Missouri, there has been far less interest in improving the relationship between police and minority communities than in making sure that the next governor has zero tolerance for violent protests. That widespread sentiment has created a surprisingly consistent voice among the four GOP candidates who have struggled to separate themselves through what Politico calls “a heated, troubled and extremely costly primary that has been marred by the suicide of one of the early candidates and a spending binge on negative ads.” The defining issue of the campaign is the anger directed at Nixon, who is at the end of his term limit, over Ferguson and the subsequent high-profile protests at the University of Missouri. Republicans know Nixon has made his party vulnerable. They are primed to seize one of the last statewide seats still in Democratic control. To do that, the Republicans are competing to prove which of them is the toughest.