Reaching New Levels of Hysteria

January 21, 2022 Updated: January 24, 2022

Commentary

You can tell that we live in revolutionary times because almost every measure proposed and every speech or article proposing them are marked by an almost frantic moral urgency. But now that we’ve marked the first anniversary of the Biden administration taking office, the official rhetoric appears to have reached new levels of hysteria.

I noticed recently in this space the “existential threat” posed to the Republic—at least according to The New York Times—by a riot that happened at the U.S. Capitol building a year ago. Of course, this wasn’t to be confused with the riots—plural—in the capital in May and June 2020, which lasted much longer, were part of a nationwide uprising, and resulted in many more injuries and much more property damage.

But, as having been directed against then-President Donald Trump and not President Joe Biden, they didn’t count as existential threats.

It was really Trump himself who was supposed to be the existential threat, which is why those supporters who once breached the Capitol on behalf of his claim that the election had been stolen by supporters of his rival, the apparently victorious Joe Biden, can now be treated as ongoing existential threats themselves.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland confirmed on Jan. 5 by saying that “there is no higher priority” for U.S. law enforcement than to belatedly bring the Capitol breachers to justice.

Note well. Soaring murder rates aren’t his priority, nor are the latest smash-and-grab raids on retailers in big cities—where, not coincidentally, left-wing prosecutors are disinclined to prosecute anyone for them. Nor are thousands of illegal aliens pouring over our largely undefended southern border every day.

No, all of these things, together with the usual everyday criminality that’s the ostensible business of the Justice Department, must take a back seat to the pursuit, arrest, and prosecution of the Trump supporters who came in a disorderly rabble to the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, alleging that the election had been stolen.

It was apparent that it was this allegation of election-tampering that made the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol breachers so much greater a threat to democracy than the Antifa and Black Lives Matter rioters of 2020.

Therefore, it must also have been what lay behind Vice President Kamala Harris’s comparison of Jan. 6, 2021, to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, and to attacks on New York and Washington by Islamist terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001. Biden’s spokeswoman defended the comparison to Pearl Harbor, and the president himself, in repeating his characterization of the breach as an attack on the Constitution and on democracy itself in his speech to Congress, seconded that comparison.

As Gerard Baker wrote in The Wall Street Journal, “When his [Biden’s] administration elevates (or reduces) its domestic opponents to the status of a foreign enemy, the only winners are the real foreign enemies.”

Then on Jan. 11, while speaking in Atlanta, the president called the breach a “coup” attempt—again presumably on account of the breachers’ allegation of a stolen election—and repeated his characterization of its aftermath as a “battle for the soul of America.” This is a battle in which he and his administration are still engaged, he said.

And how, besides siccing the Justice Department on those rioters who alleged that the election had been stolen, did he propose to fight this battle? You’ll never guess. It was by doing anything necessary, including trashing members of his own party as well as the opposition, to approve a measure that was making its way through Congress that would have made it easier to steal elections!

The logic, such as it is, behind his advocacy for this legislation appears to go something like this: Since it’s axiomatic, at least in the Democrats’ book, that the 2020 election wasn’t stolen, in spite of a pandemic-inspired relaxation of voting restrictions around the country that made it the most recent election in U.S. history likely to have been stolen, it follows that no election can ever be stolen.

Therefore, all restrictions on voting can be relaxed in order to create the widest possible franchise, especially among those minorities most likely to vote Democratic.

This is what he—and most of his party and the media—amusingly refer to as “voting rights.”

As he spoke, at least two Democratic senators—enough to defeat the measure along with solid Republican opposition—appeared to be harboring a few doubts about this logic.

So the president then went on to compare them to George Wallace, Bull Connor, and Jefferson Davis. If his object had been to persuade the wavering senators over to his side, he was certainly going a very odd way about it—which is why I have my doubts as to whether that was his object. On the contrary, his willingness to lash out like this against his more-reluctant allies powerfully suggests that he knows the battle for “voting rights” is lost, so he has nothing to lose by comparing these senators to those approved super-villains of U.S. history.

He might also have something to gain.

His own approval ratings have again sunk to new lows recently—in one poll as low as 33 percent. Public approval of Harris is even lower. As the president sees support for his administration drifting away, even among Democrats, his last, desperate throw of the dice might well be to remind the doubters of the unique evil of his hated archenemy.

For if Trump and the Trumpites are acknowledged to constitute an evil unparalleled in U.S. history except for that of the enemies who have made war on us, aren’t those who disapprove of the dear leader, such as those who refuse to obey him and vote for his favored legislation, in effect joining with the enemies of their country?

It might seem a dubious proposition to most of us, but it worked for California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

James Bowman
James Bowman is a resident scholar at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. The author of “Honor: A History,” he is a movie critic for The American Spectator and the media critic for The New Criterion.