On Political Violence

There's no excuse for it, while we can still vote the bums out.

I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.

- Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, Imperial Japanese Navy

The airwaves and broadsheets of the mainstream media this week are overflowing with reports of right-wing violence and threats against Democratic leaders.  Racial slurs shouted at a black congressman who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.!  A coffin placed on the lawn of another congressman's private residence!  A rock thrown through the office window of a third!

We could bore our readers by patiently debunking each and every accusation.  Video evidence shows a total absence of racial slurs during Congressman John Lewis' walk past the Tea Party protesters.  The coffin was a prop used as part of a prayer vigil mourning Russ Carnahan's pro-abortion vote symbolizing the many babies to be slaughtered as a result of his action.  Rep. Driehaus' office "is on the 30th floor of a skyscraper downtown" - the FBI will have to race to beat the Washington Nationals' pitching coach in the hunt for this stone-chucker!

Actual facts are beside the point.  The retraction is never as prominent as the initial accusation, and sooner or later there really will be some Neanderthal doing something stupid.  In a nation of 300 million people, how could there not be?  While the media seems to have conveniently forgotten the endemic violence on the Left at world trade meetings,  Republican conventions, and tea-party counter-protests, this is no more than the selective amnesia we have come to expect.  The plummeting ratings and increasing red ink of most media organizations will eventually solve the problem, but not anytime soon.

Instead, there's a more fundamental question at hand: Is violence, in fact, appropriate?  If so, when?  If violence becomes appropriate, how will we know?

Our Founders: Not Gandhi...

It shouldn't need pointing out, but our Founding Fathers were perfectly willing to resort to violence when that was their only option.  The Father of His Country and our First President was General George Washington. Not all of our founders personally fought in battle, but many did, and all supported the basic idea of an armed Revolution.

Not for them the "nonviolent protest" techniques of Gandhi, which worked in the dying days of an exhausted British Empire under the harsh light of global communications.  Ghandi's techniques would never have been effective against a British Empire in its prime years of expansion and with communications gaps measured in months.

What's more, many of the Founders didn't necessarily view the Revolution as a one-off event triggered by extraordinary circumstances unlikely to be repeated; they knew it might have to happen again, and yet again.  Thomas Jefferson famously said:

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.

The Constitution of the State of New Hampshire, written in the same era, explicitly grants citizens the right of revolution against an unjust government:

[Art.] 10. [Right of Revolution.] Government being instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security, of the whole community, and not for the private interest or emolument of any one man, family, or class of men; therefore, whenever the ends of government are perverted, and public liberty manifestly endangered, and all other means of redress are ineffectual, the people may, and of right ought to reform the old, or establish a new government. The doctrine of nonresistance against arbitrary power, and oppression, is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind[emphasis added]

If there is no other way to make the government answerable to the people than war, our Founders called for war and would advise us to wage war as they did.  Polls clearly indicate that a majority of Americans did not want Obamacare passed and, now that it has been passed, the majority don't want to keep it.

The ruling Democrats have blatantly ignored the Will of the People by cramming a repulsive bill through on a party-line vote.  They put on a spectacle riddled with bribery, arm-twisting, and extraordinary pressure, which is revolting to the American electorate who expect their elected representatives to take their oaths of office seriously.  Of course the American people are angry; how could they not be?

If the president and the leaders of his party in Congress think the American people are going to roll over and play dead after the biggest government power grab in history, they don't know this country.

Not quite time yet.

...But Not Bloodthirsty Either

So, we have a government which has proven itself to be utterly disdainful of the will of the people by running roughshod over the laws and customs of our country which have served us well for two centuries.  Man the battlements, and bring on the cannons!  Right?

Not so fast.  The colonial government our Founders grew up under was somewhat representative on the ground in that most of the colonies had elected legislatures granted certain powers.  Despite some local control, most executive authority was provided via the King's appointment of royal governors, made entirely without regard to the will of the people or the gross incompetence of the nominees.

What's more, in the years immediately preceding the Revolution, England's Parliament decided to pass bills of taxation and regulation on the Colonies, which had no voice or vote in Parliament of any kind.  Hence the slogan "No taxation without representation" - quite literally the case.  The laws collectively known to history as the Intolerable Acts were imposed by a faraway power with no consent of the people.

Even so, our Founders tried every peaceable means of redress.  Benjamin Franklin and others went to England to present America's case.  Letters of explanation and petition were repeatedly dispatched across the Atlantic.  The Continental Congress even sent the Olive Branch Petition to Parliament and the King after fighting had already begun.  Armed resistance was truly the last, reluctant resort.

In contrast, our current political leadership may have betrayed their trust and violated their oaths of office, but they were elected in a free and fair vote by the people who're now so unhappy with them.  We are convinced that the Democratic party and its corrupt allies such as ACORN used numerous types of fraud and intimidation to nudge close elections in their favor.

However, this power is clearly not absolute: there was never a bluer state than Massachusetts, nor a government infrastructure more thoroughly corrupted by public-sector unions and Democrat partisanship, yet Republican Scott Brown was confirmed as the winner of his Senate election and permitted to take his seat.

Do Democrats cheat?  We believe so, but only to the degree of a few percentage points.  Do Democrats lie?  Routinely; but the Internet still allows the truth to be proclaimed.

Do Democrats ignore the Constitution?  Transparently in the case of Obamacare, but not absolutely; nobody has suggested that elections will be canceled altogether or that, say, Mr. Obama will cling to office indefinitely.

In other words, there is no reason why the reigning Left cannot be thrown wholesale from office over the next two elections.  Massachusetts showed that the Left can be defeated even in its strongholds; 2010 will provide more proof.

The lesson of our Founders is that violent resistance to tyranny is appropriate but only after everything else has been tried.  There can never be legitimate recourse to violence while an open ballot box is available.

Yes, we fear for the future, but fears don't always come true.

We feared that ACORN would grow in power and its ability to steal elections would be extended; instead, thanks to the imagination and fortitude of James O'Keefe, ACORN is a bankrupt laughingstock.

We feared that untrammeled illegal immigration and amnesties would "pack the vote" with 30 million newly minted Democrats; it hasn't happened yet.

Until it does - until it is clear that sound government cannot be had peacefully via the ballot box - there is no legitimate justification for violence against our own government.  There's no need for the bullet box until after the ballot box has failed.

It's better that way anyway.  Since the 60s, the Left has proven that violence is its first recourse.  Anyone who went to elementary school knows it's always better to make sure the teacher saw that the other guy threw the first punch.

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other Scragged.com articles by Petrarch or other articles on Politics.
Reader Comments
With respect, what would you consider an acceptable "last straw"?

Rampant nationalization of industry? It's here.

Suspension of habeas corpus? It's here.

Militarization and federalization of the police to the point where posse comitatus has lost most of its meaning? It's here.

A legal and tax code so complex it is impossible either to understand or avoid violating, written largely by unelected bureaucrats? It's here.

Constant violations of privacy and the right to private property from an alphabet soup of unconstitutional entities? It's here.

The founding fathers were willing to fight and die for far, far less than this.
March 31, 2010 12:02 PM
I'm sadly inclined to agree with III. While I'm not promoting violence myself, yet, the founders were willing to fight for a lot less affront than citizens are now facing.
March 31, 2010 12:38 PM
I believe the last straw would be that we cannot vote them out, either because of a blatantly stolen election or by "packing" the vote via amnesty for illegals.

It is a fact, like it or loathe it, that Obama and Nancy Pelosi fairly won a free and fair election. They are where they are because the American voters chose to put them there, and I have a hard time justifying force to abort a legitimate electoral victory.

If they won't leave when we tell them to go, now that's a problem. If they make it impossible to tell them to go, that too is a problem. But neither has happened yet.
March 31, 2010 1:57 PM
And if, freely elected or no, they seize a wide array of powers forbidden either explicitly or implicitly by the Constitution and other documents necessary for their legitimacy to have any meaning?

40% of eligible Americans didn't vote in 2008. They know their vote doesn't make a real difference, but merely chooses one of two members of our one party: the Boot-On-Your-Neck Party. Both parties want nothing but more-- more interference in the voluntary transactions of free men, more confiscation and "redistribution" of rightfully earned wealth, more impunity for agents of the state, more laws and regulations which make us criminals ten times over when we attempt to peacefully live our lives, always shoveling more wealth into Leviathan's grasping maw.

Does a slave have no right to emancipate himself, or an assaulted man no right to self-defense? Then only is retaliatory force by the people illegitimate.

Even if the actions of Obama and Pelosi or Bush before them genuinely reflect the desires of the electorate (and I believe in almost every respect they do not), if my countrymen choose to vote tyranny for me and mine I must reserve the right to say nay.

"Democracy," as Ben Franklin said, "is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the outcome."
April 1, 2010 10:50 AM
I would be willing to bet that the majority of that 40% are merely completely uninterested in politics.

What makes it right for a person to force a person to live in a certain way? If you enforce what you see as your 'rights' with the use of physical violence you are depriving someone else of what they see as their 'rights.'

Lets imagine that some right wing group managed in a violent manner to successfully revolt and take control of the United States. Unless that group planned to maintain its power through a form of authoritarian government America would end up right back where it is today after only a couple years.

Unless you plan on destroying democratic rule violent revolt will not be helpful. Now I would personally support any state that decided to enforce its 10th amendment rights and left the union if its demands were not met. This however could still be achieved with non-violent means.

Violence against a democratic republican government is only useful if your desire is to destroy its democratic nature.
April 1, 2010 9:59 PM
What makes it right for a person to force another to live a certain way? Nothing. Absolutely nothing in the entire world. As long as another person isn't initiating force against me, I have no right to force him to do anything.

That is precisely why, just as each state has the right to withdraw its consent from the federal government and to enforce its sovereignty with violence if necessary, each person has the right to withdraw his consent from a state or federal government and enforce his own sovereignty (his right to self-government). Should he harm no one, he has the right to configure and dispose of his property (which includes his body) as he sees fit. To argue otherwise is to argue that the state owns man (makes a slave of him) rather than man owning himself.

Democracy is not a magic word conferring legitimacy on any gang which invokes it. If it were, a dozen hoodlums could show up at your house and vote themselves the rights to your possessions. A democracy's legitimacy is predicated on the consent of its constituent members. If, for any reason, its members withdraw their consent to be governed, any attempt to enforce further doctrines and dictates is justly resistible.

The last thing I or others like me want is a violent conflict, but I think we both know how withdrawal of our consent would be met by our lords and masters in Washington. Violence in defense of one's natural right to self-ownership (a right whose denial makes rape, assault, murder and theft meaningless as crimes and whose acceptance precludes the existence of any so-called "positive rights") is a likely but unfortunate consequence of any refusal to bow.
April 1, 2010 11:14 PM
A person does not have the right to simply withdraw from a political body. The United States of America has a right to the property that we live upon. Withdrawing from the political body would give them the right to use force against you.

While a person does have the 'right', ie the innate ability, to declare themselves separate from the political body they must understand that the political body has the right to tell them no.

By living with the territory controlled by the United States government you give the implicit consent to be ruled by the United States government. While rebellion is a 'right,' ie innate ability, of all persons other people around them also have the 'right,' ie innate ability, to put down said rebellion.

The word 'right' has many meanings depending upon who uses it. I am not sure what you mean when you say 'right' and can not intelligently debate the matter until I am sure exactly what you mean when you say that.
April 2, 2010 6:05 PM
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