November 7, 2022

The day I received my absentee ballot from the DC government, there was a story in the Washington Post about the DC Council’s imminent vote: “The bill would eliminate most mandatory minimum sentences, allow for jury trials in almost all misdemeanor cases and reduce the maximum penalties for offenses such as burglaries, carjackings and robberies.”

Over the past few years, violent crime in DC has been rising fast. Last year, the murder rate was the highest since 2003, and this year the death toll is slightly higher so far. Carjackings are up 36% and robberies are up 57%. Almost all this hideous violence is inflicted on African-Americans, including many children. It permeates outward, creating a deeper public sense of insecurity and out-of-control crime. Tent cities are now all over the city. People suffering from mental illness patrol the streets. You feel the decline in law and order, the slow fraying of the city, every day.

And yet, the Council has decided that now is the time to make it harder to prosecute and easier to defend violent criminals, partly in the name of “equity.”. Yes, it’s part of a longstanding “modernization” of the criminal code, but they had to include these provisions and now? And this isn’t new. Just before the crime explosion took off, the DC mayor had “Black Lives Matter” painted on the street in letters so large you could read them from a plane, and allowed “Defund the Police” to remain next to it. That summer, woke mobs were allowed to harass anyone in their vicinity, yelling slogans that vilified all police — and the MSM took the side of the bullies. After the summer of 2020, the DC police force dropped to its lowest level in two decades.

So guess what? I’m going to vote for the Republican and the most conservative Independent I can find tomorrow. And I can’t be the only Biden and Clinton and Obama voter who’s feeling something like this, after the past two years.

There was no choice in 2020, given Trump. I understand that. If he runs again, we’ll have no choice one more time. And, more than most, I am aware of the profound threat to democratic legitimacy that the election-denying GOP core now represents. But that’s precisely why we need to send the Dems a message this week, before it really is too late.

By “we”, I mean anyone not committed to the hard-Left agenda Biden has relentlessly pursued since taking office. In my view, he and his media mouthpieces have tragically enabled the far Right over the past two years far more than they’ve hurt them. I hoped in 2020 that after a clear but modest win, with simultaneous gains for the GOP in the House and a fluke tie in the Senate, Biden would grasp a chance to capture the sane middle, isolating the far Right. After the horror of January 6, the opportunity beckoned ever more directly.

And yet Biden instantly threw it away. In return for centrists’ and moderates’ support, Biden effectively told us to get lost. He championed the entire far-Left agenda: the biggest expansion in government since LBJ; a massive stimulus that, in a period of supply constraints, fueled durable inflation; a second welfare stimulus was also planned — which would have made inflation even worse; record rates of mass migration, and no end in sight; a policy of almost no legal restrictions on abortion (with public funding as well!); the replacement of biological sex with postmodern “genders”; the imposition of critical race theory in high schools and critical queer theory in kindergarten; an attack on welfare reform; “equity” hiring across the federal government; plans to regulate media “disinformation”; fast-track sex-changes for minors; next-to-no due process in college sex-harassment proceedings; and on and on it went. Even the policy most popular with the centre — the infrastructure bill — was instantly conditioned on an attempt to massively expand the welfare state. What on earth in this agenda was there for anyone in the centre?

It therefore doesn’t surprise me that in his final pitch to voters this week, Biden barely mentioned his record. He didn’t talk about inflation, the looming recession, crime, immigration, Covid. He mentioned nothing that would motivate anyone beyond his own base.

He returned instead to his previous 2020 electoral blackmail: you have no choice but to vote for Democrats because the far Right is so hostile to democracy. To which my answer would be: well, I did that already. And I was treated like an easy mark by the Dems — who pocketed my vote and ignored all of my concerns. Voting for an actual election denier would remain a dealbreaker for me. But otherwise, when Trump is not on the ballot, why would I be suckered by the woke Left again?

Worse than this bait-and-switch is the condescension that came with it. Think of the absolute assertions by the Biden administration and their media flunkies: The border is secure. Covid vaccines prevent infection. There is no CRT in high schools. The lab-leak theory and Hunter Biden’s corruption were disinformation. There is no medical debate about fast-track, affirmation-only, sex changes for minors. Inflation is caused by corporate greed. Women in college always tell the truth; and men always lie. A president can forgive student loans by fiat. Debt doesn’t matter. A woman can have a penis. The people who attack Asian-Americans are all white supremacists. The idea of individual merit is racist. Can you think of any social issue where the Biden administration hasn’t taken the position of the illiberal “social justice” Left?

And culture matters. David Brooks wrote last week: “Over the past few years, the Democrats have made heroic efforts to win back working-class voters and white as well as Black and Hispanic voters who have drifted rightward.”

What planet is he living on? He points to infrastructure spending and the child tax credit. The first was coupled, as I’ve noted, with a big increase in the welfare state, blunting its impact; the second is now gone. Brooks doesn’t mention inflation, crime, immigration, the border, abortion, race and affirmative action. In these areas, which will define the election, the Dems have, in fact, made heroic efforts to affront and insult working-class voters. On abortion post-Roe, they have adopted the most extreme position possible, making even Republicans look like moderates.

And look, we can debate all these questions. There are many nuances. But Biden precisely denies those nuances. He never even gives a hint that he respects his critics at all. He sees his moderate supporters not as people to be persuaded or engaged, let alone listened to, but as bigots or victims of disinformation he can simply dismiss. “C’mon, man!” used to be a verbal tic he deployed to engage with critics; now it’s deployed simply to dismiss them.

It doesn’t seem to occur to Biden, for example, that violent crime and uncontrolled immigration affect poor minorities more than wealthy whites, jeopardising their lives and wages, and making a mockery of those who have made the effort to immigrate legally. He repeats absurd jargon such as “Latinx” to please his nutty, MSNBC-addicted donor base. He tells blacks they have to vote Democrat because of their race. He invites the most hardcore trans extremists to the White House; and takes no responsibility for making inflation worse.

All of this — the Left policies and the veiled contempt for the average voter’s fears and criticisms — has been building since his election. The shameless deceptions and false narratives of the MSM have pissed a lot of people off as well. No one appreciates being called a bigot or a hysteric for wanting to have a say in their own child’s education; or a “white supremacist” for opposing “equity-based” race discrimination. Yet it happens every day, with CRT-based indoctrination mandatory in many workplaces, teachers openly indoctrinating kids in queer theory, and corporations adopting bald race discrimination to appease the woke. Biden is down with all of it, and is in such a bubble that I don’t think he even knows there is a real debate.

Obama sees why this dynamic is so toxic. He sees why it alienates so many people unnecessarily. But the Democrats are not the party of Obama anymore, are they? Many of us who supported Obama are now deemed “white supremacists” for agreeing with him.

Midterms are always a verdict on incumbents — and if the result next week is a close finish, we can duly see it as a routine, even banal, response to a tough economy, especially inflation. But if it is a real wave, as I suspect it may be, if the Democrats lose even more Latinos and Asians and working-class whites, and if suburban white women — freaked by the cost of living and the education system — flee to the GOP, it will be a clarion call to Democrats to move back to being the party of Obama.

I fear they cannot. And their media lackeys and propagandists will reinforce their worst instincts.

The Weimar dynamic is a simple one. The Left and Right polarise; the middle collapses; inflation takes off, unnerving everyone and discrediting government; and at some point, as liberal democracy breaks down, voters are asked to choose between the extreme Left or the extreme Right.

What Biden has done, by showing that even an alleged moderate like him is just a vehicle for the extreme Left, is accelerate the moment when we are faced with that horrible choice. And if that is the choice, I have little doubt that Americans will pick the far Right. We’ll have a premonition of this tomorrow.

The key for the survival of democracy is not another speech about democracy telling citizens they have no choice but to vote for one party. It is preventing the Weimar nightmare scenario ever happening. It is rebuilding the political centre. It is about taking action on inflation and immigration and crime. Biden has failed catastrophically so far — and with his current policies, he will continue to fail.

His party has two years to rescue itself. And the rest of us.

A version of this piece first appeared on Andrew Sullivan’s Substack.