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Sunday, July 29, 2018

The Thin Line between Liberty and Tyranny

when it comes to other people who happen to be different from the establishment, Republicans seem to be downright mean and nasty. We are constantly reminded of the meanness of Republicans over and over again. One recent example is evident in the xenophobic remarks of the Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, who recently referred to Mexican and other immigrants as rapists and murderers.
Fast forward three years, to Hillary Clinton's remarks about Supreme Court Justice nominee Judge Kavanaugh:
On Friday morning, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggested that President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, would bring back slavery if he is confirmed to the nation's highest court. "Let me say a word about the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court," Clinton told the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) at its national convention. "This nomination holds out the threat of devastating consequences for workers rights, civil rights, LGBT rights, women’s rights — including those to make our own health decisions." "It is a blatant attempt by this administration to shift the balance of the Court for decades and to reverse decades of progress," the former Democratic presidential nominee declared. Then came the kicker: "I used to worry that they [the Republicans] wanted to turn the clock back to the 1950s. Now I worry they want to turn it back to the 1850s."
The implication, of course, is that Brett Kavanaugh would somehow bring back slavery. How exactly that would happen is of course a mystery that only Hillary Clinton herself can answer, but that is not the point. What matters is instead the unhinged rhetoric that the left is throwing at anyone who is right of center (or what they define as "center", which is not exactly the same as how more level-headed people would define it). This rhetoric hints of a future for our country that people on the right side of the aisle ought to take very seriously.

In the past 15-20 years, America's left has ramped up its rhetoric, but also its ideological fervor, to levels that match or even surpass what Europe's leftists are capable of. The only exception is that on the outer rim of the left flank of the European political spectrum, there is a resilient, not to say defiant radical left demanding the end to parliamentary democracy and individual freedom.

In the past couple of years, after Donald Trump's presidential victory, the Bernie Sanders left has filled that gap in the American left. This is a totalitarian left-of-the-left movement of a kind America has not seen since the Communist heydays in the 1920s-1950s, a left that, if it ever rises to prominence in politics, will shy away from no means whatsoever to impose their totalitarianism on our country.

The instinctive reaction from conservatives and libertarians to any proposal that totalitarianism could make headway in the United States, is always to laugh it off and dismiss the messenger as a tin foil hat. Totalitarianism can't happen here, because... well, it can't.

Right?

Wrong. All the totalitarian left needs to do is to make use of already existing government institutions to transform the United States from a constitutional republic to a socialist tyranny. There are, in particular, two institutions that conveniently could serve their purpose.

The first vehicle is the welfare state, the totalitarian nature of which I recently explained at length. This institution, which consists of entitlement spending and punitive taxation, is almost entirely in place today. Add paid family leave and other general income security programs, as well as single payer health care, and the "soft totalitarianism" of the welfare state is complete. At that point its institutions can easily be tweaked to fit a particular political narrative:

-It will be easy to give preference on health-care waiting lists to people with "good" political opinions;
-Conservatives will have to wait longer than others for their income security checks;
-Registered Republican voters may find that their unemployment benefit applications were accidentally deleted from the government computer system.

Since, under the full-fledged welfare state, people depend on government for almost everything in their lives, the line between being a leftist and a conservative basically becomes the line between life and death.

The welfare state was created by the left, but the right has given them ample help in building and funding it. The second institution that the left could use to persecute their political opponents was the brainchild of the War on Terror: the federal government's expanded use of the term "enemy combatants". 

Even though the term has been around since at least World War II, but its application expanded significantly after the 9/11 attacks. What makes its 21st century use so ominous is not primarily its definition of terrorists as "enemy combatants" - although that is an aspect of the term to return to - but how it came about. In a 2014 article for the Huffington Post, University of San Francisco law professor Peter Jan Honigsberg explains the haphazard manner under which islamist terrorists became enemy combatants:
the term enemy combatant became the term of choice during a practice session to prepare Paul Wolfowitz, then Deputy Secretary of Defense, for his appearance on the MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour in March 2002. During the session, someone asked Wolfowitz how the detainees could have fair trials if the president had, in various memos and statements, already declared the detainees to be unlawful combatants.
Apparently for technical reasons, that term was soon changed to "enemy" combatants. This put anyone tagged as such beyond the constitutional due-process protection of U.S. law. There was no legislative process preceding the expansion of the "enemy combatant" definition to include terrorists. Nor was there any other process where the general public could at least be aware of a pending change. According to Honigsberg the process was simply one of administrative fiat by the White House. 

This is where the door opens for totalitarian applications of the term. In an interesting video featuring Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), libertarian commentator Kyle Kulinski - whose linguistic prowess leaves a thing or two to wish for - explores the frightening consequences of the concept of "enemy combatant". The take-away from the video is Senator Paul, although Kulinski, in his own crude way, touches upon the broader implications of the term:


It is a basic rule in politics to never give government powers that you would not trust your worst political enemy with. Very probably, the Bush administration did not have this aspect in mind; to them, it was likely inconceivable that the United States would one day have a president whose ideological leanings were antithetical to the founding principles of our constitutional republic. President Obama gave us a mild taste of what such a presidency could look like, as he employed the federal government for his personal ideological purposes. 

Unfortunately, as Senator Paul demonstrates, the Obama administration's use of IRS and the FBI against the president's political enemies, is a lesson that the likes of Senator Grahaym (R-SC) have not learned. Yet after having seen how Obama went so far as to use the nation's top law enforcement service for ideological purposes, it is no longer inconceivable that a future, radically socialist president could choose to unilaterally expand the term "enemy combatant" to include his political adversaries. 

Consider this. Since Congress handed over jurisdiction over the term to the presidency, the key term in the definition of "enemy combatant", war, is now also under the jurisdiction of the executive branch. Previously, a war was the activities deriving directly from a formal declaration of war; now, a war can be ongoing military operations against a terrorist organization. 

However, as the arrest of Jose Padilla suggests, those operations can also include law enforcement operations. At that point, civilian government agencies become engaged in the war against enemy combatants. 

Once the civilian part of the federal government is engaged, and once law enforcement agencies participate, the definition of the war has changed. It is no longer a military matter. 

Now consider how the definition of war varies between ideologies. What common-sense minded Americans think of as war is not what socialists like Bernie Sanders or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez think of as war. Their definition of a war is similar to the common-sense definition in one aspect only: it is a struggle between two forces where one side has to win by defeating the other. Marxist conflict theory defines the distribution of income between labor and capital as a war between opposing parties. 

Yes, this is true. Marxists see workers and their employers not as partners through mutually beneficial contracts, but as enemies engaged in a war. 

America's conservatives refuse to understand this. By means of their refusal, they also refuse to grasp the real threat that the Marxist war definition poses to our country. As the "enemy combatant" definition currently stands, it is up to the president to redefine "war" and thereby include a broader range of the civilian federal government in fighting it. 

Under a Marxist definition of war, anyone opposed to confiscation of wealth from the "rich" could be said to be fighting a war on the working class. Therefore, he is an enemy combatant of the American people.

For now, we have a president who, for all his faults, is a true American patriot. However, it is not far fetched that this could change - dramatically - with the next president. We don't have to refer back to Obama: the communist infiltration of the Truman administration offers another good case study. 

Again: the first lesson that every politician should learn is to never give government powers they would not trust in the hands of their worst political enemy.

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