The problem of political overreaction

David French of National Review Online probes problems caused by overreaction in our current political debates.

This weekend I read … stories that both, in their own ways, summed up the dysfunction that’s dominating American political life. They’re … tales of action and reaction, of reading far too much into the events of modern life — even modern life in the “age of Trump.” And they both illustrate a core truth of our time: America is losing its sense of proportion and perspective.

The first story comes from the heart of “nice” America — a prosperous southern community near Houston. Last week Texas Monthly published a long and sordid tale of a Trump shirt, a temper tantrum, and all the craziness that followed. Our story begins with four teenage girls in line to buy chocolate-chip cookies. One of the girls was wearing a souvenir shirt she bought in Washington, D.C. It bore the name of the current president of the United States.

Well, that was too much for an older woman in the line, a liberal activist and member of the city council named Kellye Burke. She saw Trump’s name and started derisively yelling things like “MAGA” and, yes, “Grab ’em by the p****.” So, there’s your first overreaction. Can a grown woman not see a Trump shirt without shouting her protest, especially when that protest is directed at a young teen girl? …

… Increasingly, however, we can’t handle “normal” without escalation, and the reason lies outside politics. We live in a time of normal political stakes and abnormal cultural change. We’re running a large-scale, uncontrolled cultural experiment on the minds and hearts of Americans, combining fracturing families, declining religiosity, economic transformation, and the immense emotional domination of social media into a toxic stew that is deeply (and sometimes mortally) wounding our fellow citizens.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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