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Robbins: America cools on crazy

By Jeff Robbins - | May 22, 2024

The morning after the 1972 election in which Richard Nixon defeated liberal Democrat George McGovern by 23 points, New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael wandered glumly around the magazine’s Manhattan office. “I don’t know how this could have happened,” Kael muttered. “Not one person I know voted for him.”

Polls continue to show President Joe Biden, by all objective criteria a highly successful president, trailing former President Donald Trump, about whom it must be said that — well, where does one start? Millions wonder, and reasonably so: How could this happen?

A new book by former New York Times reporter Nellie Bowles, “Morning After the Revolution: Dispatches From the Wrong Side of History,” may provide clues. By turns wickedly funny and deeply painful, Bowles tackles the absurdity, and the vapidness, of what passes for hyper-progressive gospel and the way in which, as with the undue deference given by the citizens of Oz to their Wizard, the media, academics and some Democrats have either swallowed absurdity whole or are too intimidated to even hint otherwise.

At the Times, where Bowles was a superstar, predictable political “takes” were strictly enforced from on high, and challenging those takes was strictly verboten. “It was a little confusing to do reporting for a place that was so sure everyone was good except, of course, conservatives, who were very, very bad, and whose politics only came from hate,” Bowles writes about The Paper Of Record. “Asking for coherence is white supremacy. I figured it out.”

One issue at a time, Bowles examines positions on which one hoping to be in progressives’ favor must either repeat party lines or silently accept them — or be branded a fascist or — much worse! — a “liberal.” One dare not risk this, because it amounts to social death. Skepticism equals heresy, and heresy makes the heretic “One Of Them.” One does not want to be One Of Them.

Which brings us back to Biden. He is decidedly not crazy, but he has crazies in his party, and they are not only crazy but often loudly crazy. Biden’s challenge is keeping the crazies from being so crazy that, while he appeals to America’s political and geographic heartland, they end up electing Donald Trump.

Over the last month Americans have watched knots of students screaming “From the river to the sea!” who can’t name the river, can’t name the sea, can’t tell you the first thing about Hamas, can’t tell you much about Israel and couldn’t care less about what they can’t tell you. They just know that donning masks and keffiyehs and chanting “Intifada Revolution!” places them on the fashionable, “progressive” side of things.

They’re not wrong. But while they recite the risible line that Israel is committing “genocide,” they have lined up behind Hamas, a genocidal enterprise whose express goal happens to be genocide and which was attempting genocide when it massacred 1,200 Israelis on Oct. 7. Channeling the late Barry Goldwater’s proclamation that “Extremism in the pursuit of liberty is no vice,” their de facto mantra is “Genocide of Jews is no problem.”

It’s no shocker to learn that Americans don’t look favorably at the intimidation, the bullying or the destruction of property that has taken place on campuses, or the fecklessness of college presidents who have indulged it. Students’ “demands,” issued on an “or else” basis, do not go down easy outside of Democratic Socialists of America confabs. A Fox News survey released last week that had Biden and Trump tied found that the anti-Israel protests were twice as likely to make Americans less sympathetic to Palestinians as more sympathetic, with 60% opposing them.

Bowles argues that there’s a backlash brewing against the craziness and the rhetoric on the far left. It may have already brewed. It’s unfair to hold the craziness and the rhetoric against the president. It’s not his, and it’s not him. But Trump will hang it around his neck like an albatross every chance he gets. With six months left until Election Day, he’ll have plenty of chances.

Jeff Robbins, a former assistant United States attorney and United States delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, was chief counsel for the minority of the United States Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. An attorney specializing in the First Amendment, he is a longtime columnist for the Boston Herald, writing on politics, national security, human rights and the Mideast.


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