Republicans Shouldn’t Have Caved on ‘Hate Crimes’

Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and I have one thing in common: we’re effectively alone in opposing the recent Anti-Asian hate crimes bill passed by the U.S. Senate, 94-1. On one level, the bill is fairly inconsequential, since it revolves around tracking hate crimes and training police officers, and has nothing to say about the punishment of actual acts of violence. On another level, though, the bill is an affront to American justice and liberty, continuing a dangerous trend of addressing crimes differently—sometimes wildly differently—based on their perceived motivations.

Now, I don’t support or condone acts of criminal violence against anyone, of any race or ethnic origin, for any reason. Why, then, would I waste what little political capital I possess in opposing a popular and bipartisan bill aimed at deterring hate crimes?

Simple! Hate, although it is almost always senseless in its origins and repugnant in its real-world effects, is not, and never should be, against the law. Every American, in fact, is free, under the First Amendment, to be as hateful and as biased as he so chooses.

Leftists make regular and copious use of this freedom, in fact—many of them are positively dripping with hate for those who think differently from the way they do, and often they betray unthinking bias towards groups, like men, white people, and Christians, who offend them, for one reason or another. Such feelings, however, and such beliefs, are not illegal. They are a permissible, if ill-advised, exercise of every American’s constitutionally guaranteed freedom of conscience. I will defend with every fiber of my being the right of leftists to hate and to deride anyone and anything they please, including me, because that is the essence of American freedom.

For this reason, all “hate crimes” legislation is a terrible mistake. When we weigh a person’s guilt or innocence, their actions, and their actions alone, are what should determine our final verdict. Their thoughts and beliefs, and our opinion of those thoughts and beliefs, are irrelevant.

Thus, whether or not a wave of “Asian hate” is washing over this country—based on the actual incidence of violent crime, it seems much more accurate and relevant to say that there is a surge in offenses, especially in our biggest cities where police forces are most cowed, in which black Americans are both the victims and the perpetrators—the fact is every time Republicans and conservatives surrender to the fashion of labeling something a “hate crime” and punishing it with special severity, they reinforce the threat that such laws pose to our liberties. They also increase the danger that future violent acts will become secondary to the phenomenon of “hate,” and thus legislators will make haste to punish the thought crime of “hate” (selectively defined, of course) in itself. And that would be a very dangerous development indeed.

The other unfortunate aspect of Republicans’ foolish endorsement of hate crimes laws is that all such efforts add fuel to the fire of Democratic and Progressive efforts to popularize the idea that America is a fundamentally hateful country, and that “hate” (always correlated with conservatism—imagine that!) is a constantly escalating threat.

Whether more “hate” abides in Americans’ hearts now than, say, five years ago is almost impossible to say, but that police departments have been given perverse incentives to catalog crimes motivated by “hate” as “hate crimes” is beyond questioning. Likewise, the corporate leftist media will stop at nothing to perpetuate the twin myths that “hate crimes” are common and that they are almost uniformly committed by conservative white men, even though neither assertion is anywhere close to the truth. “Hate,” though, has become such a key organizing principle on the Left—hating the haters is de rigueur—that the show must go on, no matter how hollow and contrived.

Lastly, consider that, for leftists, “hate” increasingly typifies all conservative and Republican activism. Moreover, most conservative rhetoric is considered “hate speech” by them. Meanwhile, the vast reservoirs of hate on the Left, symbolized by Black Lives Matter and Antifa but by no means exhausted by them, are studiously ignored by leftists and their media acolytes. Their criminal violence is deemed “mostly peaceful.”

The obsession with tarring all conservatives with the “hate” brush is so ingrained among Progressives, in fact, that words themselves—not just “hate,” but “racism,” “insurrection,” “infrastructure,” etc.—must be redefined to fit the new paradigm. Don’t agree with leftist doublethink? Then you must be a white supremacist/climate denier/sexist/Christian fundamentalist/anti-vaxxer/redneck/transphobe/domestic terrorist! Plus, you and your spouse and your kids and your dog and your cat are probably ugly and stupid too. 

Are these, then, the people we want defining and punishing “hate crimes”? 

For all these reasons, it is disappointing that Senate Republicans took the bait and voted en masse for the recent anti-Asian hate crimes bill. If they think that this will reduce the aggregate amount of hate or violence in America, they are mistaken. If they think that they can somehow put a dent in the blistering hate that leftists feel for Republican senators and for ordinary conservatives, they are monstrously naïve. 

Either way, they are in the wrong, and Senator Josh Hawley is alone in being right.

About Nicholas L. Waddy

Dr. Nicholas L. Waddy is an Associate Professor of History at SUNY Alfred and blogs at: He appears on the Newsmaker Show on WLEA 1480/106.9.

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

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