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The Boiling Over of America

Peggy Noonan

WSJ, June 9, 2022

San Francisco’s progressive District Attorney Chesa Boudin was recalled this week in a 60-40 landslide. Los Angeles saw a surge of support for a moderate mayoral candidate, Rick Caruso, who campaigned on crime, homelessness and social disorder. None of this necessarily marks a sea change; the people of both cities have long been happy to be liberal Democrats. What they won’t accept is being ruled by progressives. (San Francisco has made this clear twice; in February, when voters fired as many progressive members of the school board as they could, we called it the beginning of a serious rebuke.) An aspect that is potentially promising for the Republicans is that the shock and trauma of the past few years of misgovernment, and the recall fights, have, for the first time in at least a generation, reminded Democrats that there are options beyond their party and that on the issues of crime and public disorder, Republicans have demonstrated the greater wisdom. So yes, there could be long-term implications.

Early reports suggest, unsurprisingly, that minority voters backed the recall in greater numbers than college-educated whites. This is because they suffer more and have fewer protections when crime spikes and homeless encampments seize new ground.

This is what the foes of progressives are saying: We won’t let our city go down. We won’t accept the idea of steady deterioration. We will fight the imposition of abstract laws reflecting the abstract theories of people for whom life has always been abstract and theoretical. We can’t afford to be abstract and theoretical, we live real lives. We wish to be allowed to walk the streets unmolested and with confidence. This isn’t too much to ask. It is the bare minimum.

Progressive politicians have been around long enough running cities that some distinguishing characteristics can be noted. One is they don’t listen to anybody. To stop them you have to fire them. They’re not like normal politicians who have some give, who tack this way and that. Progressive politicians have no doubt, no self-correcting mechanism.

Another characteristic: They are more loyal to theory than to people. If the people don’t like the theories the progressives impose, that’s too bad; the theory is pre-eminent.

Progressives say: We are changing all rules on arrest and incarceration because they are bad for minority groups.

The minority groups say that sounds good in the abstract but let’s make sure it’s good in the particular.

It proves not to be. The minority groups say: Stop.

The progressive says: You have to like what we’re doing, it’s good for you! What are you, racist?

The minority groups say: We’re going to fire you.

No you’re not, don’t be ridiculous.

Watch.

And they fire him. And he’s shocked.

Here the third distinguishing characteristic: The progressive can’t understand why. He tells reporters the voters are “in a bad mood” because of inflation and housing costs.

A final characteristic of progressive politicians is that they tend to be high-IQ stupid people. They are bright and well-educated but can’t comprehend the implications of policy. They don’t understand that if an 18-year-old is repeatedly arrested for assaulting people on the street and repeatedly let go, his thought may not go in the direction of, “What a gracious and merciful society I live in, I will do more to live up to it.” It is more likely he will think, “I can assault anyone and get away with it. They are afraid of me.”

Criminals calculate. Normal people know this and anticipate it. It is a great eccentricity of progressive politicians that they can’t.

So I do think America is on a campaign to remove them, one by one. And this is good.

USA Gun | AK Rockefeller | Flickr

I jump to another crime-related issue, and that has to do with the national Republican Party and guns. At the basest level, where politicians tend to live, you’d think the GOP would be trying to situate itself as the party of wise adults to help summon those Democrats looking for a new home.

Congressional Republicans argue, compellingly, that there is a mental-health crisis in America, especially among young men. But do they listen to themselves when they say this? Because at the same time many are suggesting they will refuse to ban 18-year-olds, with their unsturdy emotions and unformed brains, from buying assault weapons such as AR-15s. Does that make any sense? It’s as if they’re saying, “We know you’ve been rendered mentally ill by the society and culture in which you’ve been raised. Therefore we’re going to make sure you can legally obtain super-weapons to kill people.”

This is proof of a mental-health crisis in the U.S. Senate. The opposition to red-flag laws is the same: We know there’s a pandemic of raw and violent instability, but it might potentially, theoretically and temporarily compromise someone’s rights if local cops, on being tipped you were displaying assault weapons on Tik Tok with the words, “Say hello to my little friends,” were allowed to check you out and, for a short time, confiscate your weapons. So we say no.

Don’t they know what time it is? This is a nation in all kinds of crises. You can’t let your theories and abstractions have sway at such a moment, you have to let common sense step in.

The lesson of this political moment: Don’t be radical, don’t be extreme. Our country is a tea kettle on high flame, at full boil. Wherever possible let the steam out, be part of a steady steam release before the kettle blows.

I finish with Justice Brett Kavanaugh and reports of the young man taken into custody in the middle of the night near his house with a gun, a knife and other gear. Police say he admitted he wanted to assassinate the justice.

The next night demonstrators were still being allowed at Justice Kavanaugh’s house. Shouldn’t the White House, the president, Congress and federal agencies be more fully in this and united against it?

The court is in a continuing crisis of trust and competence, and now of danger, after the leak of the draft of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade.

NPR reported this week the clerks of the court are upset the investigation might harm their future prospects. A source tells Nina Totenberg, in her paraphrase: “The clerks are terrified that their whole professional lives could be blown up.” Wow—in all my worries about the court I forgot to worry about the mid-six-figure jobs jeopardized at Covington & Burling.

Two centuries of tradition broken and a draft decision leaked to the press, which was a disaster for the court operationally and reputationally. Demonstrations at justices’ houses, and now a guy with a gun.

The court should release the Dobbs decision—stop letting madmen think they can stop or affect it through violence. As for the clerks, yes, it’s generally, perhaps unjustly, assumed a clerk leaked it and hard to doubt it was a clerk for a liberal justice, with the motive of alarming, agitating and urging opponents to rise up.

Mission accomplished. Now the clerk should come forward, confess, and leave his or her fellow clerks professionally unharmed. If you were moral, you would want to protect the innocent. And let some steam out there, too.

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