Kirsten Powers asks:
Which is worse: your grandparents being deported or being followed into a bathroom (bc you refused to stop and listen) by ppl desperate for your help? This is not a trick question.
— Kirsten Powers (@KirstenPowers) October 4, 2021
This isn’t a good question. We either have norms or we don’t. And if we only have norms when the press decides they count, then it doesn’t really matter what the justification for breaking them is; we’ve already conceded defeat.
Kirsten Powers thinks that deportation may be the line at which following politicians into bathrooms becomes okay. But here’s the problem: Once she’s agreed that such a line exists, she’s invited everyone else to come up with their own version. Everyone — yes, everyone — thinks that they have a good reason to break the rules. For some people it’s immigration, for some people it’s abortion, for some people it’s foreign policy. “Which is worse,” I might ask after a pro-life activist followed Susan Collins into a toilet, “tens of thousands of babies being murdered every year or being followed into a bathroom (bc you refused to stop and listen) by ppl desperate for your help?”
We really do have two options here. We can stand up for decorum in our system, or we can watch as it disappears. On January 6th, the rioters had their own, misguided question: “Which is worse: a stolen election or a riot by ppl desperate for your help?” They were utterly wrong on the facts, and their behavior was reprehensible. But that doesn’t change the fact that many of them believed that what they were hoping to achieve was more important than our political norms. She may not know it — indeed, she’d likely be horrified by it — but Kirsten Powers’s question is posed in exactly the same vein.