This question is complex but can easily fall prey to sophistry and mere perceptual bias. If you ask right-wingers about dangers on the left they point to Antifa, Black Lives Matter riots, race-based education, redistribution of wealth, limitations on various basic freedoms, and the strange gender craze that has enraptured the country. If you ask a leftist about the dangers of the far-right, they will point toward a litany of “phobias:” homophobia, the newly minted term transphobia, years ago Islamophobia, etc. They will also now of course point toward January 6, 2020, and Donald Trump’s denial of the election results, which are in their view a creep toward dictatorship. Included in leftist worries about the right-wing are also climate change “denialism,” corporate cronyism, and needless military expansion.
So, here we are. Both halves of the country believe the other half is crazy, evil, stupid, or all three at once. But what is the reality of these claims along the lines of the various dialectical viewpoints from left and right? I do not have the scope in this essay to address the litany of complaints in the first paragraph, but there are two broad domains of issues that I would like to detail here that have received little attention in the way that I will describe them.
Broadly, the conservative side of America can be portrayed as being willing to limit personal choices when it comes to emergent social matters like abortion in Texas and other red states, and race-based education in Florida. And as broadly, the left can be seen as being willing to do away with basic necessities of societal functions like law and order and personal responsibility as exemplified by the defund the police movement that swept the country in 2020 and beyond.
How much of a measurable impact have these two prongs had on the country, and is it possible to determine which is worse and in what ways?
Beginning with the Right:
Let us begin with the conservative limitation on abortion in Texas and the push to outlaw abortion in the country federally as some on the right would have it. Here there is a striking irony in the conservative movement that many in that corner simply dismiss or fail to address in any meaningful pragmatic way. If abortions are either outlawed outright or are restricted to such an extent that they are not attainable by let’s say…the least capable in society, who will end up providing financial support for the resulting children? Obviously the taxpayers will. How can the right-wing simultaneously rail against abortion and also claim to want to lower welfare dependency? Those two positions are actually mutually exclusive. An even more semi-humorous irony is that the right-wing here is committed to socialism on this matter because taxes will be raised to finance the new generation of unfit mothers and unwanted children that they produce. As a forensic psychologist who has assessed problem children in juvenile halls for the Superior Courts, I can tell you that the social, criminal, and economic costs to the public are vast when it comes to neglected and abused children. They become dependent for life on the government, they commit crimes at much higher rates than the general public, and they have children at higher rates who themselves become a self-perpetuating welfare rung of society.
The book Freakonomics detailed the very likely explanation that the cause of the sharp decline in crime in the 1990s was due to the fact that Roe V Wade passed in the 1970s and the would-be-criminals simply did not exist as they had been aborted into non-being. There were fewer criminals in existence. I see very few faults in their explanation. So, Texas should be happy that there are blue states in America who will continue to abort their future criminals for them; however, the Texas law and other state laws like it will certainly drive up the percentage of unwanted births and as a result, the reverse effect in the 1990s will be seen in 2035-2045 as a new generation of dysfunctional people will emerge into criminal life.
States where abortion is banned: Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
States with limited abortion access: Arizona, Florida, Utah, and North Carolina.
States trying to ban/limit abortion access: Indiana, Iowa, North Dakota, Montana, Ohio, and Wyoming.
Source: New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2022/us/abortion-laws-roe-v-wade.html
Given the millions of low-income people who will be affected by the 12 states where abortion is completely banned with no exceptions and the 4 states with restrictions, it is reasonable to assume that the entire country will experience a major boom in crime beginning in 2035 when the earliest of these unwanted men reach age 15. I predict that in 2040 we will be spiraling back into a 1960s-era crime scenario. The cost to the country will be beyond measure because lifelong criminals are a well-spring of their own unwanted children who then become eligible criminals themselves, and so on.
Now for the Left:
Economists and statisticians have already made the case clear that the massive crime wave in the US following 2020 had little to do with COVID. Worldwide crime plummeted during COVID, and if you analyze the areas where crime spiked in the US, just about each and every area is a city, which is no surprise as cities have denser populations and higher crime rates to begin with, but almost all of the cities were left-wing liberal enclaves. Portland, Seattle, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, etc. These areas welcomed the destructive and divisive “social justice” psychosis of defunding the police.
Professor Barry Latzer has written extensively on crime policy (Real Clear Podcast Episode with Barry Latzer) in the country as has Rafael Mangual (Real Clear Podcast with Rafael Mangual). Their analyses are the core bases for my positions here.
I lived in Portland, Oregon from 2018-2022. Leaving aside the many wonderful qualities of that community for the purpose of this essay, it is a fact that hard-left positions have quite literally destroyed the city. During the endless riots in 2020 it could be heard that “well, it’s not like the entire city is burning as Fox News says.” This is a most strange position to take: that there are only a handful of blocks set ablaze in your city nightly…no biggie. As the empathic liberals caved to the leftists post George Floyd, life as a police officer became uninhabitable; and so police left the force in droves in major cities. Portland lost nearly 200 officers, Philly lost more than that, and LA continues to lose more than 50 officers PER WEEK. The police began defunding themselves through early retirement and simply quitting (quiet quitting?), and new enrollments went down 60%. It could be argued that places like Portland, Oregon, and Los Angeles are actually unprotected geographic regions at this moment. The average response time for a 911 call to a code-red emergency in Portland is nearly 25 minutes at this time. If your emergency is not code-red, you may very well receive a response from the dispatcher that you should protect yourself as best you can. I have this information directly from a 911 dispatcher in Portland.
A case is made here that left-wing policies actually brought whole cities to their knees (pun intended) and practically destroyed them socially and economically. If you look at surrounding areas from these city centers, they did fine during covid. In Oregon, cities like Tigard, Lake Oswego, and Beaverton thrived and remained relatively safe. These areas are just miles from downtown Portland. Did Covid stop 5 miles away from the city center? Or is the sharp decline in civics and safety a result of juvenile left-wing policies? Take a look at this story about a landmark Portland building that is defaulting on its loans. (Link: Historic Portland Building Defaults on Mortgage Loan)
The owners actually state that the city has become rampant with “continued social unrest and increased crime” to the extent that businesses have made a mass exodus…and there is literally nobody renting their offices or patronizing businesses. Yes, more and more businesses are virtual and that has made a huge impact on physical rent, but this company is joined by hundreds of other physical businesses in this and similar cities who report closing up shop and moving due to theft, vandalism, safety problems, and the resultant decline in patrons and revenue. Business insurance companies stopped providing policies in these cities because vandalism and theft has become so costly. (Link: Insurances Baulk) Imagine that…you owe a jewelry store and one day you receive a letter stating that everything in your shop is now literally fair game for thievery on your dime. You would toss everything you had in a moving truck and terminate your business lease immediately. That’s what happened in these cities and they are now economic ghettoes.
In conclusion to the section on the Left, whole cities have literally been destroyed and will likely remain in ruin for decades. The data on urban renewal for degraded city centers shows that downtrodden areas are very slow to come back to life once they have been toppled. It is a bleak irony that there is a higher concentration of black people in these newly destroyed urban areas and when surveyed black people report wanting more police activity in their neighborhoods…not less. The downstream effect of the toppled cities is a mass exodus of industrious people and the qualities of life that they seek. Of those qualities, safety is penultimate to none. Los Angeles is now a war zone and for the first time, it is losing more citizens than it draws. The other cities are displaying the same data. The left has created fallout zones from the anti-police blast in 2020. These zones are veritable cultural craters…the opposite of opportunity zones.
In conclusion, the far-right and far-left have had a major impact on our country of late. The hard left has had a more immediate effect on crime and quality of life and the hard right has enacted policies that will increase generational crime in the future at an unknown economic and social cost. As a point of difference, I cannot think of a policy or movement on the right that has actually razed cities to the ground as did the extremely wayward social justice movement, but it can be said that the morality-based position on abortion that the right takes is sure to create disastrous conditions in the next generation.
I’m ending this essay grimly and without solution, but we have to be able to identify that which is ill-fated in order to move toward that which is optimal. Don’t be afraid to point.
The Real Clear Politics Podcast with Dr Lucas Klein is the in-depth analysis and commentary on current political events through a psychological lens. The Real Clear podcast covers a wide range of topics, from the latest election results to policy debates, to exploring the impact of current events on the political landscape.