If you are fond of simple and traditional American political categories, Nancy Grace is a mystery.
We the people, we're told, are "liberal" or "moderate" or "conservative," labels that carry with them a generally accepted array of social and political viewpoints. We know that we can tune in to Fox to be congratulated for our "conservative" viewpoints and to MSNBC for our "liberal" viewpoints.
But which is Nancy Grace?
Well, she's enraged about rape and abuse of women and furious at the suggestion that a complaining witness might not be truthful. That's "liberal," right? And she's convinced that George Zimmerman was guilty. That seems to be viewed as "liberal," and belief in Zimmerman's innocence is "conservative."
But wait. She's enraged and befuddled when the Jodi Arias jury hangs on the death penalty. Isn't support for the death penalty "conservative?" She's incensed when an accused murderer of a child is found not guilty by a jury, invoking the image of the devil dancing — isn't that "conservative?"
But then back to George Zimmerman for a minute. Yes, she's convinced he's guilty, which is supposed to be "liberal," but she's upset enough to throw out racial tropes, which I'm told is supposed to be "conservative:"
“Give Zimmerman back his life? He’s out on bond driving through Taco Bell every night, having a churro,” the HLN host charged.
Yes, Nancy Grace is a riddle covered in an enigma wrapped in a snarl shellacked with hairspray.
If, that is, you accept the liberal/moderate/conservative rubric.
Nancy Grace's political bent is quite recognizable to me. She's not liberal or conservative, and no principled view of gun ownership or race or women's rights drives her coverage. No, she's a vigorous statist, at least with respect to criminal justice. Her political viewpoint is perfectly internally consistent. As a statist, purpose of the criminal justice system is to convict and punish to the maximum extent possible people accused by the government. To determine whether someone has committed a brutal and dastardly crime, all you need to know is whether the government has said they did. That's why defense attorneys are worthy of contempt: they are, by definition, trying to obstruct justice. That's why she questions and despises constitutional rights: they are mere impediments to the guilty being punished. (That view, no doubt, fueled her penchant for prosecutorial misconduct.) That's why anyone who might speak in support of a defendant infuriates her: they are objectively pro-crime. That's why she's defiant when law enforcement abandons a suspect in favor of a new one: we have always been at war with Eastasia! That's why she is perplexed and abrasive when actual crime victims don't act the way she thinks they should; the role of a crime victim is to advance the state's chosen narrative. That's how she decides whether she's an opponent of the abuse of women (as in the Duke Lacrosse case) or a snide opponent of a defense of battered woman's syndrome (as in the Jodi Arias case): she doesn't decide, the state does by making its accusation.
Nancy Grace is the clumsy and ill-considered personification of frightened devotion to the will of the state. She's the mob made one flesh, the embodiment of our fears, our hope that the government will save us, our worry that it might not. The notion that the state can be counted upon to accuse the right person, and that the justice system will punish the guilty and only the guilty, is comforting; the concept that the system is flawed and fallible is terrifying. Due process, like any sort of freedom, is scary and messy. How much more soothing it would be to believe, like Nancy, that the state is right, and that anything or anyone that stands in the state's way may be righteously denounced.
Nancy Grace exists. This is distasteful and regrettable but inevitable, and should be tagged and filed away with other evidence of our brokenness. Her existence and her viewpoint is not what terrifies me. What frightens and shocks me is how mainstream it is, how it's simply a slightly less polished version of what we hear from our leaders of the "left" and "right" every day. Once, if someone were described as "liberal" or "conservative," we could draw some conclusions about their opposition to unrestricted state power, or to vigorous defense of the rights of the accused. Now — particularly after 9/11 — that is not the case. It's statists all the way down.