Why are there so many problems in this country that aren’t addressed? Why, when we keep agreeing there are problems, can we not agree on any of the solutions?
It doesn’t matter what subject it is, the problem is always the same.
Already this year, there have been hundreds of mass shootings in America. This week, we saw the shootings at a hospital in Oklahoma. The week before, it was Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Each time one of these atrocities occurs, people agree that something must be done. But “something” never happens.
On issue after issue, it is the same. Everybody agrees that there is a problem with drug overdoses in this country. As this city’s health commissioner, Dr. Ashwin Vasan, said, “The overdose epidemic is taking one New Yorker from us every four hours.” What can be done about that? Nobody seems to agree, so the city’s morgues keep filling up.
It is the same with policing, voter ID and any number of other issues. It is the same with fashionable social-justice causes like #MeToo or Black Lives Matter. A problem is identified, and after an initial burst of sympathy, it loses all credibility. Why is this?
One reason — perhaps the most significant — is the disastrous effect of completely unreasonable demands.
Take the example of guns. In America, there is a broad majority across the public that agrees that aspects of the current gun laws are unsustainable. There are guns that our service personnel use on the battlefield that do not need to be sold to the public for hunting or self-defense. Or consider the fact that the Uvalde shooter bought the weapons he used in his cowardly, bloody massacre of children immediately after his own 18th birthday. Because he legally could. Though he would have had to wait another three years to buy a beer at a bar.
People do realize that there is something mad about this. But nobody will do anything about it. Why? Because the moment that the debate is opened up, people from the radical extremes make claims that destroy the argument of the center. For instance, many voices on the anti-gun left immediately turn their fire on the Second Amendment. They blame the Founders for the very idea of the amendment, and in the process they spark a reaction. “They want to take away all of our guns,” say those in the pro-gun movement. And they are not completely wrong. People who want to protect the right to bear arms see people who want to take away that right. And so, in a soup of suspicion, nothing gets done.
It is the same on almost everything. There are times when some aspects of policing can be improved upon. But nobody who has lived through the last few years in America will easily forget the “abolish the police” movement, which kept stating that as its aims. As The New York Times said in a notorious June 2020 piece, “Yes, we mean literally abolish the police.” Anyone who saw this nation’s cities burn that summer is unlikely to give way to even minimal demands for police reform if they come from movements that dream of a country in which there are no police at all.
What about voting integrity? Since every popular vote in this country is now suspected by whichever side loses it, you’d have thought that ballot integrity would be something both sides could agree upon? But no. The moment anybody says, for instance, that it would be good if people could prove who they are when they vote, the radical left cries “racist.” Indeed, even President Biden now pretends that it is back to Jim Crow if Republicans ask for something that is expected of voters at the polls in most other democracies.
On issue after issue, the same stalemate occurs. Have some complaints about the odd pervy male? If so, you’ll find your efforts to do anything hampered not by your alleged opponents, but by your allies. After all, what are the chances of success when a movement insists that we must always and everywhere “believe all women,” as we were told in 2017, from the outbreak of #MeToo.
What are the chances of any movement being heard when it makes statements and demands that are so completely insane? As Amber Heard neatly demonstrated in the witness box, the idea that you should everywhere and always “believe all women” doesn’t survive its slightest encounter with reality.
Try to address the drug epidemic in a city like New York and you’ll come across similar, deranging claims. Including those made by the New York City Health Department.
Riding on the subway this week, I managed to catch sight of one of their shiny new posters. “Don’t be ashamed you are using, be empowered that you are using safely,” says a proud woman. The authorities are trying to encourage heroin users and others to avoid overdoses from drugs including fentanyl. There is plenty to debate about drugs in America. But who wants to hear from public health authorities who scolded us for years about vaccines and mask mandates now advising us to be proud, safe smack users?
Center cannot hold
That’s the problem with issue after issue in this country. Crazy extremists, usually though not always from the far left, make completely deranging claims. They throw around the same mad assertions, call their opponents all the nastiest names and as a result skew any possibility of a solution. They scare everybody off. Not just their opponents, but anybody in the reasonable middle.
Nobody will hear about police reform from people waiting around to abolish the police. Nobody wants to hear about gun control from people boasting about wanting to take away everybody’s guns. Nobody will listen to public health authorities who think being a smackhead should be a source of pride. Or be told to believe a whole range of other things that they know not to be true.
We’re never going to silence the nutters. But it would be good to find a way around them. Otherwise, on every big issue this country will keep just getting nothing done.