The Law and Order Liberals?

In one of the most divisive election seasons I can ever recall witnessing, we have been watching politicians slowly being herded into one of two camps. They aren’t traditional divisions based on red and blue or left and right. Increasingly, the swamp is being forced to ask whether you stand with the Freedom Caucus or the Squad. “Moderate” is a dirty word. Trying to be a successful moderate in Washington today is roughly as easy as a transgender hooker angling for a position as a priest. This choosing of sides carries over to the major issues being debated in this election and it does so in a way that is making many liberal analysts quite nervous.

Aside from the economy (yes, that’s an important one), the other key issues all boil down to questions of personal safety and security and the need (or lack thereof) to ensure that people feel that they live in an orderly society and not the streets of Haiti. Do you want to secure the border or continue to allow illegal migrants to flood the nation? A growing majority have made their feelings clear, but most Democrats are terrified of suggesting any but the most timid measures. Do you think all of the criminal illegals running rampant in our communities should be rounded up and detained and deported, or should they be allowed to remain indefinitely, eventually becoming citizens and Democratic voters? Again, that’s a fairly easy call for many, but the Democrats face the wrath of their base if they say the answer aloud. How about those increasingly violent pro-Hamas protests where activists attack the police, desecrate memorials, and chant about exterminating the “zionists” in America? Do you side with the protesters or with Israel? The vast majority support Israel, but most Democrats are too timid to raise their voices. Should we be supporting the police and cracking down on crime or continuing to let people run wild? These should all be easy calls and the Democrats seem to be coming down on the wrong side of all of them.

One person who seems to have reached the end of his rope on these issues is Bill Kristol. Writing at The Bulwark this week, he felt compelled to address a question that never should have needed to be asked. He opens his column by phrasing the question in blunt terms. “Can liberals be for law and order?” He goes on to identify all of the issues I mentioned above before gently asserting that there really isn’t any choice in the matter if the liberal movement hopes to retain any measure of political influence.

Liberals have to be for law and order.

I know the phrase has a problematic history. And being friendly to law and order doesn’t mean you cannot or should not denounce religious bigotry, seek to curb police brutality, defend the First Amendment, and criticize demagogues who exploit public concerns for their own purposes.

It also doesn’t mean you can’t try to emphasize, as Democrats did in the late 1960s, that you’re for law and order—and for justice. I like that modification, and perhaps it can be revived today. But still, the fact remains that in the current political climate, you cannot be a majority party in the country if you’re perceived as indifferent to or unfriendly to law and order.

And of course law and order properly understood are things we should be in favor of. In the Preamble to the Constitution, to “insure domestic tranquility” is the third purpose listed, after “to form a more perfect Union” and “establish justice.”

I almost felt sorry for Bill Kristol while reading this column. He felt compelled to write a column that boiled down to the equivalent of a parent patiently trying to explain to a petulant three-year-old why they couldn’t be allowed to climb up on top of the stove with the burners lit. He was careful to include all manner of caveats, reassuring his readers that they were still free to criticize or even insult conservatives and Republicans. (Of course!) But choosing to side with those supporting chaos, violence, and mayhem in our streets is going to result in a one-way ticket to the political wilderness. 

Stretching back to the days before Joe Biden even took office, this showdown has been brewing. We saw it when the Democrats supported defunding and handcuffing the police while working to empty the jails and end cash bail. We’ve all seen how that worked out and people are both frightened and angry about it. Those same schools of thought are facing off in the current debates I mentioned above. You either support law and order and safety in the streets or you don’t. There is no middle ground. The majority of the sane people who might otherwise tend to support Democrats still want to keep themselves and their families safe and be able to walk the streets of their neighborhoods without looking over their shoulders. Those contrasting interests are plainly displayed on each side of the major issues on the minds of the people preparing to decide the outcome of the upcoming elections. Bill Kristol has figured that out. But a significant number of Democrats clearly have not. Personally, I’ll be fine with them remaining clueless until it comes time to mop up all of the figurative blood on the floor after the votes are counted.

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