Commentary on Political Economy

Thursday 25 April 2024


The Counter-Revolt Finally Begins


(6 min)

Wonder Land: Columbia, Yale and NYU camp out while the rest of the U.S. flees from wokeness. Images: AFP/Getty Images Composite: Mark Kelly

Before this column ends, we’ll get to the unmissable fact that anti-Israel, often antisemitic, protests are proliferating at what we amusingly choose to call our most “selective” universities—Columbia, Yale, New York University, Stanford, Berkeley. For the moment, add these North Face tent protests on $75,000-a-year campus quads to the sense among the American public that their country is running off the rails.

A list of the phenomena laying us low includes: wokeness, DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion), defund the police (a depressing subset of wokeness), conspiracy theories, head-in-the-sand isolationism and a self-centered political polarization typified—from left to right—by Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Cori Bush, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz and Lauren Boebert.

Ironically this time of year is associated with hope, amid spring and college graduations—except at the University of Southern California, which, fearing trouble, canceled its commencement speakers and told honorary-degree recipients not to show up.

Setting silenced USC aside, a hopeful note one hears at college commencements is that the American system is self-correcting, that despite recurrent stress, it always rights itself. Opinion polls suggest few believe this anymore but—happy spring—it looks as if we may be on the brink of a real counter-revolt against the craziness.

Last week in the hopelessly gridlocked House, Republican Speaker Mike Johnson, facing threats to his job from the chaos caucus, cast his lot with the enough-is-enough caucus. The House passed bills to sustain allies in Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. Congress isn’t dead—yet.

Blue states and cities that looked willing to collapse rather than defend their citizens have begun to push back against progressives’ pro-criminal and antipolice movements.

At the urging of Gov. Kathy Hochul, New York’s just-passed state budget includes measures to crack down on shoplifting. Assaulting a retail worker will be a felony. Larceny charges can be based on the total goods stolen from different stores. Progressives in the state’s Legislature opposed the measures. Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker, elected in January on restoring law and order (yes, it can be a Democratic issue), last week announced a plan to support policing in the most crime- and drug-plagued neighborhoods.

March seemed to be a tipping point. The hyperprogressive Council of the District of Columbia, in a city that had become an embarrassing carjacking hellhole, passed an array of anticrime measures. Oregon’s Legislature voted to reverse the state’s catastrophic three-year experiment with drug decriminalization. San Francisco voters approved two measures proposed by, of all people, Mayor London Breed, to ease restrictions on policing and require drug screening for welfare recipients. The results in Los Angeles County’s primary for district attorney strongly suggest progressive George Gascón will be voted out in November.

In all these places, the reversals by elected officials are driven by the prospect of voters’ turning them out of office. That is the U.S. political system trying to right itself.

In California, a safety coalition has collected about 900,000 signatures to reverse parts of Proposition 47, the state’s now-notorious 2014 decision to reduce some theft felonies to misdemeanors. This week, the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority appeared sympathetic to overturning a Ninth Circuit decision that bars cities and towns from enforcing vagrancy laws. Though the case emerged from Grants Pass, Ore., which is trying to ban homeless encampments, about three dozen elected officials and organizations in California filed briefs arguing that the Ninth Circuit’s ruling made cleaning up the streets almost impossible.

News stories since the start of the year have noted that many private companies are rethinking policies on DEI, partly under legal pressure, such as the Supreme Court’s decision last year to strike down the use of race in college admissions.

Some in the corporate DEI movement thought they were immune to restraints. No longer. Companies are rediscovering that the constituency most needing inclusion is their customers. The loudest shot across the bow came last week, when Google fired 28 employees after some staged sit-in protests at its New York and California offices over a contract with Israel’s government. Google’s firing statement describes “completely unacceptable behavior.” No one saw that coming.

All this adds up to a nascent counter-revolt against America’s lurch toward self-destruction. The exception is elite U.S. universities. Their leadership has seen itself as answerable to no one and politically immune.

Robert Kraft, a Columbia grad and owner of the New England Patriots, said this week he will no longer give the school money “until corrective action is taken.”

If big donors ever regain control of these so-called selective schools, a suggestion: Firing the president won’t close the barn door. Instead, fire the admissions office. What a tragedy to think how many serious high-school students were rejected by Columbia, Yale and NYU, edged out by nonuseful idiots whose chosen major is the political structure of re-education camps.

Someone has to be a lagging indicator, and these schools are it.



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Appeared in the April 25, 2024, print edition as 'The Counter-Revolt Begins'.

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