Austin Davis, who’s in the running to become Pennsylvania’s first Black lieutenant governor, said reprehensible things a decade ago. They’re degrading and insulting, not to mention racist and misogynistic.

Should he be canceled for them? Absolutely not.

More dangerous to our society than Davis’ mean-spirited and arrogant tweets is mob rule. But you can’t blame some on the right for wanting to see Davis canceled. Everyone knows if Davis were a Republican instead of a Democrat, he’d be a political footnote instead of a candidate.

Conservatives are justified in wanting to hold the left to their own rules. The progressive hypocrisy of selectively calling out racism and other societal harms is galling and dangerous. It’s what makes cancel culture so toxic.

Discourse and debate are the cornerstones of a well-functioning democracy. Mob rule and factionalism can lead to a free society’s demise. Venezuela, once a vibrant successful democracy, voted in a leftist tyranny. The mob demanded a government that jailed political opponents, violently killed dissenters, and turned a blind eye to rigged elections.

The progressive hypocrisy of selectively calling out racism and other societal harms is galling and dangerous.

Canceling those with opinions most people deem morally wrong and socially unacceptable (racism, misogyny) leads to a permissiveness in simply labeling speech we do not like as those very things without any reason or recourse. Worse, cancel culture is creating a society where dissenting or unpopular opinions become a risk. Canceling isn’t about debate but dehumanizing.

Speech is free. The consequences are not. Actress Constance Wu attempted suicide after she was canceled in 2019 for publicly tweeting she didn’t love her job on a hit TV show. Her words harmed no one, but she was publicly excoriated for them. Private DMs from her fellow Asian actresses telling her she was a “blight” on the Asian American community made her believe she didn’t deserve to live. Wu didn’t lose her job for her words, but she nearly lost her life.

Cancel culture does more than make the sinner pay a penance. It offers none of the healing redemption necessary for a free and civil society. In America, we have always believed in second chances. It is the basis for the bipartisan work on issues like criminal justice reform. Our achievements here have been a bright spot.