“TooFar” isn’t a viral hashtag — yet — but it’s the dominant ethos of the moment, the sentiment that drives our politics and our culture, the meaning that’s propelling a massive backlash across the political spectrum.
For the right, the summer of protests, Black Lives Matter and the “woke culture” went too far by toppling Confederate monuments, working to create “autonomous zones” in cities like Seattle and pushing to defund the police.
Conservatives responded by campaigning against the 1619 Project and critical race theory, passing dozens of laws designed to quell protests, and hammering Democrats as soft on crime.
The latter has been so powerful and effective, particularly as some crimes have increased, that it has caused Democrats – some who were not fully committed to police reform to begin with – to line up and to run away. Even the most liberal cities backed out of the reforms.
Perhaps no city exemplifies this trend better than San Francisco.
In February last year, London Breed, the city’s first black woman to be elected mayor, announced plans to redirect $120 million from law enforcement budgets to the black community. It is, without a doubt, a decision that fits perfectly with the spirit of “Defund the Police”.
Ten months later, after some crime increased, she led a wave of police in some neighborhoods. “It is time for the reign of criminals who are destroying our city,” she said, “to end. And it ends when we take steps to be more aggressive with law enforcement, more aggressive with changes in our policies, and less tolerant of all [expletive] who destroyed our city.
The White House applauded her for the turnaround.
Now San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, a crusader for criminal justice reform, may well lose his office in a recall election. His opponents castigated him as soft on crime. If recalled, it will be a blow to criminal justice reform efforts in San Francisco.
Many residents of this liberal city have also succumbed to the Too Far ideology.
But police reform and criminal justice are just some of the areas where this ideology is pervasive. Some people see the inclusion of trans girls in sports – and the normalization of trans-ness in general – as a bridge too far in LGBTQ rights. Because of this, we have seen relentless attacks on trans women, from toilet bills to laws banning trans children from playing on sports teams.
Conservatives have framed their anti-trans agenda as a defense of women, and they’ve found unlikely allies among devout feminists, some of whom only whisper their dissent. But one person who has become a hero of this cohort is a woman who has not been silent: JK Rowling, who stubbornly refuses to back down on the issue.
She defended her position on Twitter in June 2020, writing:
“If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction. If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women around the world is erased. I know and love trans people, but erasing the concept of gender robs many of the ability to discuss their lives in a meaningful way. It’s not hate to tell the truth.
Although I am firmly in the “trans women are women” camp, I am very aware that not everyone – not even all liberals – is there with me.
I had a brief discussion at a cocktail party a few months ago with a feminist who sees Ms Rowling as a hero, saying things that others don’t dare. This person also condemned the idea that trans girls should be allowed to compete against other girls on sports teams because, up until the point of transition, they were men whose bodies were flooded with testosterone,” the original performance-enhancing drug”.
Even the #MeToo movement now seems to be battered by allegations that it too has gone “too far”. It’s not just that Johnny Depp won his libel case against ex-wife Amber Heard on Wednesday. Even before that, Heard was torn to shreds on social media. As my colleague Michelle Goldberg recently pointed out, Heard was “far from a perfect victim” and “it made her the perfect subject of a #MeToo backlash.”
In a statement released after the verdict, Heard wrote that the disappointment she felt was “beyond words,” but that “I am even more disappointed in what this verdict means for other women.” She continued: “It’s a setback. It takes the clock back to a time when a woman who spoke out and spoke out could be publicly shamed and humiliated.
In fact, this #MeToo backlash has been a concern for years, and it was more than a salacious celebrity story. In 2019, the Harvard Business Review published an article on the results of the University of Houston research which revealed:
“More than 10% of men and women said they thought they would be less likely than before to hire attractive women. Twenty-two percent of men and 44% of women predicted that men would be more inclined to exclude women from social interactions, such as drinks after work, and nearly one in three men thought he would be reluctant to have a one-on-one meeting with a woman. of women said they expected men to continue harassing, but would take more precaution not to get caught, and 58% of men predicted that men in general would fear more be unjustly accused.
Now we see renewed energy coming from the left on other issues, like abortion and gun control.
The fact that the Supreme Court appears poised to overturn Roe v. Wade is, for many, proof that conservative justices have gone too far. And recent mass shootings, including the massacre at a school in Texas, may have convinced some parents that the ubiquity of guns in this country has gone too far.
Across the political spectrum – depending on the issue, of course – there is an intense gravitational tug to return to a previous position. This desire is so strong that it is used to stir up voters’ enthusiasm. The only problem, in November, is which suite of Too Far issues has the most influence.
Charles M. Blow (Twitter: @CharlesMBlow) is a columnist for The New York Times, where this piece originally appeared.