The wholesale erosion – or even flat-out denial – of our civil liberties and constitutional rights during the coronavirus lockdown has (not for the first time) raised vitally important questions.
- To what extent should we allow our government to do this?
- To what extent should we be prepared to acquiesce, to knuckle under, before we take a stand and say, “This far and no further!”?
- How should we resist when the intrusion into our rights becomes too great to bear? Must we restrict ourselves to fights in the courts, which may well result in a verdict proving us right, but in the meantime – until that verdict is issued – will result in our having to endure those intrusions? Or are we entitled to take physical, dynamic measures to resist oppression?
Let’s set the scene first. Carol Brown lays it out.
We have become part of a mass scale human experiment in government control and it turned out that stripping away our freedom wasn’t all that difficult. Under the guise of concern for our health and well-being, tyrants came out of the woodwork. Our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, and our lives are being destroyed as the left solidifies and expands their oppressive powers. We’ve been herded around like cattle, threatened, isolated, confined, silenced, and arrested. You name it, it’s happening.
. . .
We’ve been told who can work and who can’t … We’ve been physically and verbally harassed, threatened, fined, detained, arrested, jailed, and/or placed in forced quarantine … Stay home. Do not go out. Do not earn money. Do not pay your bills, feed your family, maintain your credit rating, live your life. Do not make a single move without permission from the State or you will be punished.
Do not dare go to church. They have been shut down, some threatened with permanent closure. Even services that maintained social distancing were not tolerated … Religion cannot thrive in a totalitarian state, as the state must reign supreme.
. . .
In several places, our right to protest has been stripped away as has our right to promote protests … The Bill of Rights has been set on fire and tossed off the top of a skyscraper as a police state rushes in … The government will hunt you down, find you, and force you and other members of your household to stay in your home, even if there’s no food in the house. The quarantine cycle could leave an entire household locked up for weeks and weeks on end, with no end in sight as we are essentially placed under house arrest. Strategies for how to identify people who’ve met certain criteria have been discussed, including government issued armbands.
. . .
And while the lust for power underpins this shocking spectacle, it’s wrapped up in the guise of “safety.” Who could possibly question a doctor in a white coat touting such an idea? No good totalitarian regime would be without its idealized worldview to sell fools down the river.
And so we’ve sailed, as our economy has collapsed, Americans have been controlled, law enforcement has complied, and people are bombarded with fearful messages every hour of every day – messages riddled with distorted information and lies, from bogus models to inflated mortality rates and everything in between … When nations go to war, they do so to defend their culture and way of life. Instead, we are destroying ours.
. . .
So far, the police state has been a wild success.
There’s more at the link.
If you want a classic example of the above, just look at Illinois Governor Pritzker’s latest insanity. He’s going to make criminals out of anyone and everyone who dares disobey his dictatorial edicts. Will the people of Illinois stand for it? If they do, they’ve strayed far from the path our Founding Fathers laid out for us . . .
There have been some – pitifully few – law enforcement officers and agencies who have taken a stand, and refused to participate in this mandated assault on our constitutional rights and civil liberties. However, the statists simply don’t care about this. They go right on riding roughshod over the “little people” they despise, even as they rule them. Witness how the Virginia governor and legislature have ignored (and openly expressed contempt for) the more than 90% of Virginia counties who have opposed their drive to restrict gun rights. Despite many counties declaring themselves “Second Amendment sanctuaries”, despite thousands of gun owners demonstrating at the Virginia capitol, the powers that be went ahead and passed most of their anti-gun agenda into law. The balance is likely to follow before long. They were completely unfazed by the opposition; in fact, their determination was probably strengthened by it. “We’ll show these deplorables who’s boss!” appears to sum up their attitude.
What’s more, our acquiescence in such administrative, executive and legislative overreach appears to be evidence that they can get away with it. Apart from a few demonstrations, where has been the public outrage? Where has been the mass civil disobedience that such overreach should call forth? Where has been our signers of a modern Declaration of Independence who will pledge their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honors to stopping such overreach, no matter what the cost? All those things have been conspicuous by their absence. No wonder the statists are emboldened!
The news media and social media are, of course, solidly behind the statists. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are actively censoring any views that oppose the mainstream, no matter how expert or authoritative the person espousing those views may be. Dissenters are de-platformed, de-monetized, denigrated and denied the ability to propagate their views. If those views are too well grounded in fact to be contradicted, they’re simply ignored, as if not talking about them will somehow magically make them go away.
It’s no coincidence that most of these offenses against our rights and liberties have occurred in left-leaning states and cities. Matt Taibbi, no conservative, explains why.
Democrats have lately positioned themselves as more aggressive promoters of strong-arm policies, from control of Internet speech to the embrace of domestic spying … Democrats clearly believe constituents will forgive them for abandoning constitutional principles … In the process, they’ve raised a generation of followers whose contempt for civil liberties is now genuine-to-permanent. Blue-staters have gone from dismissing constitutional concerns as Trumpian ruse to sneering at them, in the manner of French aristocrats, as evidence of proletarian mental defect.
Nowhere has this been more evident than in the response to the Covid-19 crisis, where the almost mandatory take of pundits is that any protest of lockdown measures is troglodyte death wish. The aftereffects of years of Russiagate/Trump coverage are seen everywhere: press outlets reflexively associate complaints of government overreach with Trump, treason, and racism, and conversely radiate a creepily gleeful tone when describing aggressive emergency measures and the problems some “dumb” Americans have had accepting them.
Again, more at the link.
Sadly, many applications to the courts to overturn executive overreach have been delayed, tied up in legal red tape, or even denied by activist judges who are entirely in sympathy with statism versus constitutionalism. A shining exception is Texas Supreme Court associate Justice Jimmy Blacklock. In a recent decision, he stated flatly and emphatically for the majority:
“The Constitution is not suspended when the government declares a state of disaster.” In re Abbott, No. 20-0291, 2020 WL 1943226, at *1 (Tex. Apr. 23, 2020). All government power in this country, no matter how well-intentioned, derives only from the state and federal constitutions. Government power cannot be exercised in conflict with these constitutions, even in a pandemic.
In the weeks since American governments began taking emergency measures in response to the coronavirus, the sovereign people of this country have graciously and peacefully endured a suspension of their civil liberties without precedent in our nation’s history. In some parts of the country, churches have been closed by government decree, although Texas is a welcome exception. Nearly everywhere, the First Amendment “right of the people to peaceably assemble” has been suspended altogether. U.S. Const. amend. I. In many places, people are forbidden to leave their homes without a government-approved reason. Tens of millions can no longer earn a living because the government has declared their employers or their businesses “ ‘non-essential.’ ”
Those who object to these restrictions should remember they were imposed by duly elected officials, vested by statute with broad emergency powers, who must make difficult decisions under difficult circumstances. At the same time, all of us—the judiciary, the other branches of government, and our fellow citizens—must insist that every action our governments take complies with the Constitution, especially now. If we tolerate unconstitutional government orders during an emergency, whether out of expediency or fear, we abandon the Constitution at the moment we need it most.
Any government that has made the grave decision to suspend the liberties of a free people during a health emergency should welcome the opportunity to demonstrate—both to its citizens and to the courts—that its chosen measures are absolutely necessary to combat a threat of overwhelming severity. The government should also be expected to demonstrate that less restrictive measures cannot adequately address the threat. Whether it is strict scrutiny or some other rigorous form of review, courts must identify and apply a legal standard by which to judge the constitutional validity of the government’s anti-virus actions. When the present crisis began, perhaps not enough was known about the virus to second-guess the worst-case projections motivating the lockdowns. As more becomes known about the threat and about the less restrictive, more targeted ways to respond to it, continued burdens on constitutional liberties may not survive judicial scrutiny.
Ideally, these debates would play out in the public square, not in courtrooms. No court should relish being asked to question the judgment of government officials who were elected to make difficult decisions in times such as these. However, when constitutional rights are at stake, courts cannot automatically defer to the judgments of other branches of government. When properly called upon, the judicial branch must not shrink from its duty to require the government’s antivirus orders to comply with the Constitution and the law, no matter the circumstances.
I, for one, am not prepared to see the Constitution ignored or abandoned. I swore an oath to support and defend it against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and that oath had (and still has) no expiration date. By that logic (and it is logical), those who ignore or trash the Constitution in their statist decrees and dictates are its enemies. That means it’s incumbent on me not to merely tolerate, temporarily, their excesses and overreach until courts can rule on the subject – particularly when we can’t be sure the courts will rule as the Constitution requires. Instead of tolerating, I need to take action. The question is . . . what action? To take up arms against, and violently resist, the duly and Constitutionally elected government and its officials – whether local, state or national – is by definition a criminal act. However, it’s well in line with the Declaration of Independence, which preceded the Constitution and precipitated the American Revolution. That’s a dynamic tension which may have to be resolved before too long.
I blame a great deal of the inaction of the American people on the abolition of civics education in American schools and colleges. Even the Atlantic, a very left-wing, progressive source indeed, observed in 2016:
While there surely are many varied causes for the current American political situation, one among those is the relative ignorance of basic American history, scientific, technological knowledge, and what some refer to as “civics” among a large sector of our population. It is testimony to the failure of the country’s education system that a high percentage of the voting-age population is simply ignorant of basic facts—knowledge that is necessary to act reasonably and rationally in the political process.
. . .
James Madison put the current dilemma clearly in focus almost 200 years ago, when he wrote in an 1822 letter to W. T. Barry: “A popular Government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” The American people are not doing this today, and the results are evident in the cracks appearing in the country’s democracy.
More at the link. Bold, underlined text is my emphasis.
The problem, of course, is that statist administrations don’t want people educated in civics. Their poisonous intrusion into and effective trashing of Constitutional rights couldn’t be done if the electorate were more aware of the limitations on their power. Remove that awareness, and overreach becomes much easier.
So . . . what do we do?
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
God forbid that a new civil war should be brewing . . . but I have a feeling in my water that one may be on the horizon. I will not be ruled as a slave, licking the feet of dictatorial statist masters. I will not allow my Constitutional rights and liberties to be ignored, trampled or taken away. That’s my bottom line; and I’m old enough, and have little enough to lose, that I’m willing to insist on it, no matter what the cost.
What’s your bottom line? And how far are you prepared to go to insist on it?
This would be a good start . . . but I don’t think it goes far enough.
The 2020 elections in November aren’t far away. Will the American electorate vote for statism, or freedom? Subjection, or liberty? We’re about to find out.