Never, goes the ancient adage, pick a fight you're not prepared to finish.
The craziness, the certifiable lunacy, that swirls about us testifies to the inability of the left to think through the implications of what it began, peaceably enough, last May in the streets of Minneapolis, which presently envelops the country to one degree or another.
The left escalates the street violence, not to mention the violence perpetrated on reason and logic by unreasonable, illogical declarations, through the pretense that it's all the fault of the white Republican authorities.
The party that throws the first punch claims innocent bystander status? Hogwash. To throw the first punch is to invite a counterpunch by the punchee, thoroughly convinced of not having provoked anything -- anything, that is, that might justify the resultant knock-down drag-out.
The left started this business and now finds itself unready to finish it, to the enrichment of -- ironically enough -- President Donald Trump's laggard hopes of winning a second term.
Illogic takes you only so far, as with the claim that federal "storm troopers" in jackboots have taken over portions of downtown Portland, Oregon, to the impeachment of life and liberty and to the enthronement of fascism. Of course, they haven't. Can't you tell by looking? See any jackboots? See federal agents starting any brawls -- the kind of brawls that protesters of left have trademarked?
According to the left, poor, innocent rioters are getting set on by the jackboot set for exercising the right of free speech. Trying to break into a federal courthouse isn't free speech, though free and intelligent speech are presently in high demand and would be welcomed for the sake of improving social interactions.
The obligatory mention of George Floyd and Derek Chauvin seems, for TV news purposes, to brush aside objections to mob violence when it really ought to remind us that dealing in a legal system with violence requires the opposite of violence -- to wit, orderly processes prescribed by the law, arguments rather than fights.
The wild and woolly left all too obviously doesn't care a fig for the just punishment of unjust offenses. If it did, it would stand down from arson and street battles with the cops. That's not the program. There is, in fact, no program beyond fighting and burning and denouncing and pretending to embrace an idealism it would better exemplify by letting fellow Americans live in peace.
The left -- back to where we came in -- has started a fight it doesn't know how to finish, or maybe doesn't want to finish. Idiocy for the sake of idiocy is the policy on display. Meanness for the sake of meanness.
What do you do with idiocy and meanness if, by chance, you gain the upper hand? Here's the challenge for those Democrats, including Joe Biden, who hope the noise from the streets drowns out anything Trump might have to say about more authentic goals in life; among those goals is putting the pandemic behind us and refloating the U.S. economy.
The polls show Trump way down at present -- a sure loser to Biden in just three months' time. The polls could be right. But then, two related considerations kick in.
No. 1: Could our mob moment, and the facility of the Democrats in apologizing for bad behavior that seemingly undercuts Trump, end up strengthening the very guy they want to finish off?
No. 2: What if they win anyway? What then? After victory comes governing. An administration ushered into power by, in part, the ugliness of violence has to decide what to do. How do you shape a unitive program while the memories of violence and disruption and name-calling linger large? How do you pass such a program? Do you, in the mode of street protest, stuff it down people's throats? And then what? And for how long? And with what effects on popular consent and general peace?
Are the Democrats thinking along these lines? They should be. As the book of proverbs would have it, there is a lion in the streets, in the form of a snarling mob. And those who seem not to care or notice do their country no service.
William Murchison is writing a book on moral reconstruction in the 21st century. His latest book is "The Cost of Liberty: The Life of John Dickinson."