On Thursday, a man jumped onstage and tried to kill one of the two candidates running for New York governor. Fortunately, he failed.

Even so, the incident was terrifying, not only because it endangered Representative Lee Zeldin but because it underscores two grave problems facing America. One is the failure of our law enforcement system to treat serious crimes seriously, both to deter them and punish the offenders. This failure makes it a misnomer to speak of our “criminal justice” system. It’s not providing justice, and it's not deterring crime, especially violent crime. The second is...

On Thursday, a man jumped onstage and tried to kill one of the two candidates running for New York governor. Fortunately, he failed.

Even so, the incident was terrifying, not only because it endangered Representative Lee Zeldin but because it underscores two grave problems facing America. One is the failure of our law enforcement system to treat serious crimes seriously, both to deter them and punish the offenders. This failure makes it a misnomer to speak of our “criminal justice” system. It’s not providing justice, and it’s not deterring crime, especially violent crime. The second is the danger violence poses to our established constitutional order, beyond its danger to any individual.

Thursday’s attack was directed at Congressman Zeldin, the Republican nominee for New York governor. Ironically, he was speaking about his state’s deplorable crime rate and its easy bail for people charged with serious crimes. That’s when a man armed with a deadly weapon jumped onstage, managed to reach Zeldin, yelled “You’re done,” and tried to stab him to death. He was tackled by the congressman and members of the audience before he could injure the candidate. The entire attack was caught on video so there is no question who did it or that he was carrying a lethal, bladed weapon.

The disturbing news doesn’t stop there. It continues with the district attorney’s egregious mishandling of this assault. The attacker should have been charged with attempted murder. Instead, the local DA charged him with the far lesser offense of “second-degree attempted assault.” Actually, the assault was more than “attempted.” It was completed, as Andy McCarthy has said. What was attempted was murder or grievous injury, and that failed. The perpetrator was released almost immediately on his own recognizance, just as Zeldin had predicted to the crowd.

Sadly, this lax treatment of violent crime is commonplace in New York and many other states and cities. The most dangerous criminals, charged with serious felonies and posing obvious threats to others, are all too often treated as harmless victims. Many are repeat offenders, let back on the streets to commit more crimes.

The real victims are ignored and left to fend for themselves. They do so by moving to safer locations, if they can afford it, by arming themselves, and by voting for officials (like Zeldin) who promise tougher law enforcement. Look no further than deep blue San Francisco, where voters stepped around homeless encampments, avoided heroin needles on the street, made it to the polls and evicted Chesa Boudin from his office as district attorney. Boudin called himself a “Justice Democrat.” The voters saw no justice in his policies.

They won’t see much justice in the treatment of Zeldin’s attacker, either. He was quickly released without bail, as if he had simply failed to pay a parking ticket. He was back on the streets less than six hours after trying to kill a human being and destroy the people’s right to choose their next governor.

This “no bail” treatment for accused violent felons is all too common. Worse, there is a powerful movement among progressives, who hope to make it standard treatment, even for violent felons who pose ongoing dangers to the public.

In the case of Zeldin’s attacker, we don’t have to guess whether he poses such a danger. He has already demonstrated it. Of course, he has not been proven guilty. That requires a fair trial and a chance for him to present his evidence, including the possibility of diminished capacity. But until that trial, the public has the right to be protected from any danger he poses. If a judge thinks he doesn’t pose such a danger and can be released, the judge should make that decision only after he has reviewed the evidence, determined if a psychiatric evaluation is needed, and required sufficient bail to ensure the defendant will return for trial.

Requiring that assurance and protecting the public would be dramatically different from current policies in dozens of cities and states. It would be different, too, from the Biden administration’s treatment of hundreds of thousands of migrants, including gang members, who entered our country illegally and are simply told to return for a court hearing in a few years. Most don’t, and the administration has no idea where they are or the dangers they pose.

It would be different, too, from the inaction that has greeted efforts to intimidate Supreme Court justices, marching on their homes in direct violation of federal statutes. Shamefully, the Department of Justice has done nothing to enforce the statute designed specifically to prevent this kind of intimidation.

The public is fed up with this wholesale disregard for their safety and the repeated assaults on the integrity of our constitutional government. Our government is founded on the right to choose representatives through free and fair elections, not violence or fraud. That right is fundamental to our freedom, and it is under attack.

Citizens are right to be especially concerned about attacks on candidates and public officials or threats to them. Why? Because those threaten our right to choose representatives at the ballot box. That means assaults on office holders and candidates, such as Zeldin, Gabby Giffords (the Arizona representative who was shot in the head), and Steve Scalise, the Louisiana representative who was shot (along with others) at a congressional baseball game. These are more than attacks on specific individuals or even specific office holders. They are attacks on the fundamental tenets of our constitutional republic.

So was the violent attempt to prevent the counting of electoral votes on January 6. Donald Trump, who lost that election, should have immediately condemned the assault on the Capitol and told everyone to leave. His supporters would have listened. He didn’t do that. Instead, he sat in the White House, watching the crowd he had summoned to Washington invade the Capitol building. He listened to them shout “hang Mike Pence.” He saw the dangers to everyone in the building. He said and did nothing for over three hours. He urged the crowd to leave only after it was clear they had failed to stop the vote count. Even then, he called the rioters “patriots.” They were not. The patriots were the outnumbered police and Vice President Pence, who was determined to fulfill his constitutional duty, even though he knew that doing it would remove him from office. That’s courage. That’s patriotism.

To quote President Biden’s teleprompter, “Repeat.”

The public is fed up with this wholesale disregard for their safety and for assaults on the integrity of our constitutional government. Our system of government is founded on the right to choose representatives through elections, to challenge their fairness only through courts and established procedure, never through violence or threats. Those rights and procedures are fundamental to our freedom.

They are under serious, repeated assault from both left and right. That assault goes beyond specific targets. It is an attack on our right to govern ourselves peacefully through established constitutional procedures. Now is the time to restate that hard truth, to say it clearly, and to vote out the feckless officials who disregard those hard-won rights.