“More and more, we’re counting on having angels in office and making ourselves vulnerable to devils.” – Conor Friedersdorf
In the months and weeks before the 2016 election, there were several news reports lamenting the lack of civics education in public schools. Little did they know that America was about to get the lesson of a lifetime.
For the last few years, I have been trying (and mostly failing) to explain to my Blue Tribe friends and acquaintances why enacting their vision of progressive heaven on earth via the heavy hand of government was such a fool’s errand. How forcibly creating this world where we are all “free to love” whoever we want (while retaining the freedom to hate Christians, anti-vaxxers, and guns, of course) under one super strong Federal power structure designed to enforce this “love” was such an incredibly dangerous proposition.
I tried and tried to explain the risks inherent in weakening the checks and balances, in eradicating state’s rights, of mocking and diminishing the Constitution as written by “old white men”, of using executive orders to circumvent Congress, of pshawing at the Bill of Rights when it gets in the way of your agenda. And you know why I wasted my precious time doing this? Because I could foresee the possibility of a President Trump, or his dangerously populist Blue Tribe counterpart.
“But what are you going to do when someone who you DON’T agree with gets into office?” I would plead. “What if it’s someone who’s NOT on your side, next time? Won’t you have traded away your protections tomorrow and forever (since government rarely gives up power, once it has acquired it) for the ability to temporarily punish people who don’t agree with you today? What’s going to happen when a Republican gets back into office? Won’t you have handed them the unfettered force of a strong central government and the ability to use it against you and your allies?”
They simply denied the possibility of that happening. The demographics are shifting, and all that. The science is settled. We can tolerate everything but intolerance.
“Ok, but what if it’s someone who takes things TOO far?” I implored. “What if it’s someone who seems to stand with you, who you mostly agree with, and then they start doing horrible things in the name of social justice, like persecuting Christians or something?”
The answer that I got chilled me to my very core. This answer came from a very fine person, a mother of 7, a woman so kindhearted that she adopted two HIV positive orphans from Eastern Europe. This eminently delightful person told me, “If that happens, at that time, then I’ll fight to defend Christians. That is, if they’re not hurting anyone with their beliefs.” And the majority of our friends cheered her on.
That was the moment that I realized, oh, my God, we are actually in trouble here. Not only are good, kind, wonderful people absolutely willing to use the force of law to promote their ingroup’s own moral agenda, they are also willing to stand by and delay protecting civil liberties for those who follow a different belief system, until that outgroup is actually, actively being persecuted. And even worse, these good, kind, wonderful people reserve the right to fight for them or not, even at that point in time, based on their belief system and their behavior.
News Flash: By the time your ingroup is actively persecuting the outgroup, it is TOO LATE to stop it. Those who protest totalitarianism and mob rule generally end up in dead in a ditch beside those they sought to protect. And if you make your support for a minority, contingent upon that minority altering their behavior to fit in with your majority, THAT IS PERSECUTION. It is conversion by the sword. That does not make you a savior, it makes you complicit. It makes you an aggressor, a repressor.
This is not tolerance. It is not tolerance to “tolerate” people you like and who agree with you. It is not tolerance to offer protection to minority groups only if they promise to toe your line, to embrace your belief system and way of life. This is Taliban thinking.
Now it has come to pass that which my friends and acquaintances thought impossible, unthinkable, not even worthy of consideration. We did not get a purehearted, selfless, social justice warrior as a president. We got a possible bad guy as a president. And the “Dark Side” has taken control of Congress and will probably also have the Supreme Court well under its control in 4 years’ time. Blue Tribers, do you get it now? Do you understand that when you advocate using the force of law and a strong, empowered Federal government to inflict your will, your morality, your philosophy and belief system, onto other people, you have then enabled it to do the same for anyone who seizes power, in perpetuity, in infinite futures that we cannot possibly envision?
Harry Browne, 2- time Libertarian presidential candidate, once said: “Give politicians power, and it will be abused eventually – if not by today’s politicians, then by their successors.” We must all tolerate the rights of others, even when we despise the way they use those rights. Even if we have to hold our noses and puke in our mouths a little as we do. We do this in order to protect our own rights and the rights of our children and grandchildren. It is a matter of simple self-preservation.
Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic wrote an essay earlier this year in which he implores politicians in power to dismantle the abuse of executive power that run amok during the George W Bush and Obama administrations before either Trump or Hillary could take this power and further abuse it. I strongly urge everyone to read it. http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/03/quick-limit-the-power-that-trump-or-clinton-would-inherit/472743/?utm_source=msn
We are currently living the world’s weirdest civics lesson. It’s too bad that it had to take somebody like Donald Trump to teach it to people. I can only hope that people actually learn it this time. Nutshell version – when you give power to the government to do what you want it to do, then others can then take that power and use it to do things you never dreamed of. The only way to win, is not to play.