"We can’t allow ourselves to remain silent as foaming-at-the-mouth protesters scream the vilest of epithets at members of Congress," wrote Bob Herbert in his New York Times column the other day. A Democrat friend of mine from Rochester, NY forwarded me the Herbert piece, entitled "An Absence of Class," about the alleged ugly incidents in the aftermath of the US House's healthcare vote. She accompanied the link with this single sentence: "You would never ever defend this." The following is how I responded.
If you think I would defend it, then you completely missed the point I was trying to make before. I don't defend the things Bob Herbert describes--if they really happened (I am completely open to the possibility that they didn't actually happen as described, or that they were grossly exaggerated, or that Democratic members of Congress and their lackeys would make up or even stage such incidents in order to achieve exactly what the incidents have achieved: a smear against thousands of people).
But let's assume that it all did happen exactly as reported. I say, So what?
Any time you gather thousands of people together, no matter what the cause they're gathering to demonstrate for, you can take it as virtually guaranteed that some of them aren't going to be nice or well-behaved people. The vast majority of humans, of any political stripe, aren't exactly saints. Obviously, in any gathering of large size, you'll have a bell-curve distribution on the civility spectrum, and at one end of the curve you'll have bad apples.
This method of gathering an unruly mob to make a political point in the streets, by chanting and waving signs (as opposed to making the points on the pages of a newspaper or at the debate lectern or in some other measured and intellectual manner) has been a favored practice of the Left for decades; seeing the same tactic on the other side is a fairly novel thing.
You wouldn't seriously assert that nothing vile ever took place at any of the demonstrations in support of causes dear to the Left, over all the decades? I've seen a little bit of it myself. For example, sometimes I'd walk out of the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California by its Franklin St. gate, during the height of the Iraq War, to find an anti-war mob with signs at the bottom of the hill, and some of them would jeer at me and call me things like "Nazi"--people who didn't know anything about me except that I sported a military-looking haircut. But you know...so what?
It wasn't unusual for acts of mob violence--looting, arson, etc.--to happen where MLK made a public appearance, even though King explicitly decried any such activity. Things got pretty ugly right there in your town, if I'm not mistaken. Should we paint all members of the civil rights movement with the brush of a few thuggish individuals who made the event a pretext to behave in a vile manner? Everyone who favors desegragation is is a thieving incendiary...if YOU favor desegregation then YOU're on the side of looting and arson...yeah, okay...strong argument, huh?
Herbert says, "We can’t allow ourselves to remain silent as foaming-at-the-mouth protesters scream the vilest of epithets at members of Congress — epithets that The Times will not allow me to repeat here." Oh really? We can't allow it? How short his memory is, because he and his ilk were perfectly happy to keep quiet and allow it just a few years ago, when protesters were saying and doing things at least as vile against the previous administration. I doubt if any president has received the amount of abuse that Bush did. And I don't care about that. He's a big boy and he wasn't drafted into the job of president, and having a thick skin is part of the job. So what?
Why is this Herbert article even worth serious consideration? His chosen method of decrying a lone idiot who spat on some politician is to spit on tens of thousands of people with vile statements like these: "For decades the G.O.P. has been the party of fear, ignorance and divisiveness...." "This is the party of trickle down and weapons of mass destruction, the party of birthers and death-panel lunatics. This is the party that genuflects at the altar of right-wing talk radio, with its insane, nauseating, nonstop commitment to hatred and bigotry."
What is this? Fight fire with fire? This is Herbert's own commitment to hatred and bigotry on display.
The whole article is nothing but an ad hominem. He's not critiquing the Tea Party's central message--he's trying to turn people off to that message with guilt-by-association. "If you are tempted to favor shockingly radical, fringy ideas like...oh, let's say, a limited government that is accountable to the people and stays within the bounds of the Constitution...then you're in the company of bigots, and therefore a bigot yourself." That's what he's saying. This is just the latest flavor of McCarthyism.
I've been called a racist and a Nazi for criticizing Obama about issues that have nothing to do with race--those names were hurled at me based on nothing other than the ethnicity of the target of my criticism, as though the only thing that keeps me from cheering him for his policies is that he's not pure Anglo-Saxon. Apparently nobody is allowed to criticize a public official on any grounds, if the official happens to be a minority. That's about the level of Herbert's argument here.
I don't care. They can call me whatever they like. All they're doing is revealing the Orwellian inversion of language that infects their thought: If I am color-blind, applying the same standards of criticism to a black man that I would to a white man, then I'm a racist It's no longer prejudice and racial double standard, but the absence of prejudice and racial double standard, that makes you a racist. If I'm for limited government and against the kind of centralization of economic decision-making that Nazis and other varieties of socialists espouse, that makes me a Nazi. Opposing socialism makes you a National Socialist. Up is down, black is white.
As “Black Monday” dawned to the realization that the fraud-filled spectacle of ObamaCare has finally passed the House of Representatives, you may have noticed some rumblings under foot. It wasn’t an earthquake in the literal sense, though from the perspective of our constitutional republic, it might as well have been.It was the sound of James Madison rolling over in his grave.
Of all the Founding Fathers, Madison was the one who most understood the importance of structure and process in our new democracy. He would have been shocked to hear the President of the United States telling the media that process doesn’t matter, or the Democratic Majority Leader of the House of Representatives say that the American people don’t care about how the government “makes sausage” — only that it “gets things done”. To Madison, any such talk would be akin to blasphemy: the Constitution was set up to prevent the kind of system where rules could be changed on a whim, and where partisan, parochial “ends” could always be justified by employing “means” which would put government — and not the people — in charge.
In short, the sausage making matters.
Madison understood principally that if the American system of government was going to be truly “by and for the people”, it had to function in a way that enshrined a balance of power between the legislative and executive branches, thereby preventing both the whim of an executive acting by fiat, or a tyranny of a majority in Congress usurping the rights of the minority party and acting on “winds of passion”. The challenge for Madison and the other Founders – particularly Hamilton and Jay, his fellow authors of the Federalist Papers – was to create a structure of government that simultaneously gave vigorous representative power to the legislature, but which ensured that this power would be divided between different branches, two distinct houses of Congress, with different representations, rules and procedures. The goal, as Madison outlined eloquently in Federalist 51, was to ensure that government — in scope and power – be controlled:
In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.
Principal among these “auxiliary precautions”, according to Madison, was to “divide the legislature into different branches; and to render them by different modes of election, and different principles of action, as little connected with each other” as possible. The House of Representatives, then, was to be apportioned and elected differently than the Senate. House members, elected every two years and assigned to a relatively small constituency, was to be the “people’s house”. The Senate, until 1913 appointed by state legislatures, offered equal representation among states irrespective of size and six year terms, insulating it from the vagaries of popular opinion. It also offered clear rules that protect the rights of the minority party from being steamrolled by the majority (thus the “filibuster”). The combination created, in Madison’s words, “opposite and rival interests, and the defect of better motives”. And these motives were – first and foremost — to create a government that reflected the will and interests of the people.
Given this, one can only imagine the outrage that Madison would feel today as the Congress – the very institution he crafted so carefully – made a mockery of its balanced powers to break every procedural rule in the book to pass a wildly unpopular bill. It was a bill so unpopular, in fact, that the Democratic leadership in the Congress knew it could not pass on its own merits, and within Congress’ normal rules and procedures. After the Scott Brown victory in Massachusetts as the “41st vote against ObamaCare”, President Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid decided to do an end-run around the Constitution by re-writing House and Senate rules to fit their partisan goals . Thus you had Rep. Louise Slaughter (D, NY) putting forth “Deem and Pass” – essentially passing the bill without any vote at all — and Harry Reid’s decision to in the Senate to use reconciliation on ObamaCare to avoid the filibuster, even though the architect of the reconciliation rule, Democrat Robert Byrd, has said clearly that the rule is not appropriate for legislation of this scope and magnitude and should not be used.
For the left, such opinions are nothing more than inconveniences. The goals of progressive government – universal health care, wealth redistribution and social justice — are so important, not even the Constitution itself should stand in its way. Obama has said so himself: In an interview with Chicago Public Radio station WBEZ-FM in 2001, he talked explicitly of the Constitution as a “flawed document” with “essential constraints” that were placed by the “Founding Fathers and Constitution” limiting its ability to promote social justice goals. Thus the concept of the Constitution as a living document, open to modern interpretation and cultural updating. This is no longer a theoretical threat to the Constitution. This threat now sits firmly in power on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.
James Madison certainly understood one important thing about the nature of man and power: “But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” Indeed, our leaders today are no angels. And never have we more needed Madison’s prescriptions for a limited government that operates on rules which guarantee the rights of the minority, and which derives its legitimacy from We the People. They work for us, after all. We don’t work for them.
The passage and signing of the bill for a government takeover of American health care should remind of Jefferson's prescient words: “I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.”
On Sunday, 219 of our supposed Congressional "representatives" approved Obamacare. This so-called health-reform bill, costing nearly a trillion dollars, commits us to a yet more devastating deficit.Cobbled together with undisclosed, unintegrated special-interest deals, the only people whose wishes it does not address are thetax-payers. You and I just get to pay.Worse, America lost. This administration flouts the precious principle of representative government, fundamental to our republic. Monstrous deficits undermine our economy, inflating costs and decreasing jobs. No longer a beacon of freedom, our government becomes just another corrupt, deal-ridden, coercive mire."Leaders" ought to serve as both public servants and exemplars. That outrageous shenanigans and skullduggery were deployed to compel Obamacare votes is wrong for America.But the November election is less than eight months away. Now we know precisely who puts party politics and petty deals ahead of our interest. Now we can issue 219 pink slips.