I first found out about this from Twitter:
In my latest at @nytopinion, I argue that the truculent response to @BetoORourke's mandatory assault weapon buyback proposal betrays a disturbing hostility to democracy on the right. https://t.co/Hysuh3EVwP
— Will Wilkinson 🌐 (@willwilkinson) September 18, 2019
“Something, something Trump supporters trump democracy” is already a bad take on the Constitution, to let’s go into the OpEd and see what he’s really saying.
I don’t know, taking my guns away with a mandatory buyback seems like a violation of at least three Constitutional Amendments (2nd, 4th, and 5th).
“Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47,” Beto O’Rourke exclaimed at last week’s Democratic debate. The gathered crowd was enthusiastic about the proposal, but other Texans were … less receptive.
Pictured, most Texans:
Mr. O’Rourke first brought up the mandatory buyback idea shortly after August’s string of mass shootings. Several well-known conservative commentators met the proposal with a series of warnings, exposing chilling and increasingly open hostility to majoritarian democracy on the right.
The whole point to the Bill of Rights as a list of negative rights was to ensure that the whims of a simple majority established in one election could not erode the fundamental and inalienable rights of the population. The difficulty in amending our Constitution is a testimony so how much our Founding Fathers wanted those rights to be preserved against the opinions of whichever party held the majority for some brief period of time.
Conservatives who understand this are of course “hostility to majoritarian democracy” as the whole point of our Bill of Rights was to prevent a simple majority from striping us of our rights.
“So, this is — what you are calling for is civil war,” Tucker Carlson of Fox News said of Mr. O’Rourke’s comments. “What you are calling for is an incitement to violence.” On ABC’s “The View,” Meghan McCain maintained that “the AR-15 is by far the most popular gun in America, by far. I was just in the middle of nowhere Wyoming. If you’re talking about taking people’s guns from them, there’s going to be a lot of violence.” On Twitter, the conservative writer Erick Erickson said: “I know people who keep AR-15’s buried because they’re afraid one day the government might come for them. I know others who are stockpiling them. It is not a stretch to say there’d be violence if the gov’t tried to confiscate them.”
Does anybody remember Waco and Ruby Ridge? If only 1% of AR-15 owners go that route and there are approximately 15 Million AR-15’s out there, that’s (give or take) Ruby Ridge 15,000 times. Don’t tell me there won’t be violence.
Bear in mind a critical point: A buyback law could not take effect without approval from majorities in both houses of Congress and endorsement by the president. This is all but impossible without unified Democratic control of government; in fact, because our electoral system puts Democrats at a forbidding structural disadvantage, especially in the Senate, Democrats would need to command overpowering supermajority support to turn such a proposal into law.
And then expect the Supreme Court to get involved if they did.
In that light, all of these ominous “there will be violence” warnings clearly imply that it simply doesn’t matter whether or not mandatory buyback legislation is enacted by duly elected representatives of the American people with an extraordinary popular mandate, because the wildly outvoted minority would nevertheless be right to regard the law as an intolerable injustice that warrants retaliatory violence. Just ask them.
Actually yes, when a fundamental Constitutional right is abrogated by a majority rules decision and not a Constitutional Amendment, violence is a remedy and one of the checks and balances in our system.
The likes of Erick Erickson jamming a cocked finger into his jacket pocket and pointing it at democracy may not strike terror in your heart. But the seditious principle behind these blustering, elliptical threats is genuinely alarming.
What’s alarming is a political writer coming to the conclusion that “50.1% of Americans who voted in this election want to end your Second, Fourth, and Fifth Amendment rights so you’re just going to have to bend over and take it.”
Democracy is what we do to prevent political disagreement from turning into violent conflict.
Only in as far as rights are respected.
But the premise of Trumpist populism is that the legitimacy and authority of government is conditional on agreement with the political preferences of a shrinking minority of citizens — a group mainly composed of white, Christian conservatives.
Our Constitution was written to preserve the rights of the minority against the abuses of simple majority rules. Our government may not have always executed that perfectly but it was one of our founding principles.
At times in the past, our Supreme Court has affirmed the rights of the minority against the will of the majority, such as in ending segregation in the south or even as recently as legalizing gay marriage after it had been voted down in state referendums.
Now that the minority in question is “mainly composed of white, Christian conservatives” I guess we have to throw that out.
Who, you may sensibly ask, granted Tucker Carlson’s target demographic veto power over the legislative will of the American people? Nobody. They got high on their own supply and anointed themselves the “real American” sovereigns of the realm. But their relative numbers are dwindling, and they live in fear of a future in which the law of the land reliably tracks the will of the people. Therein lies the appeal of a personal cache of AR-15s.
“We Progressives are running on a platform of stamping out your rights because you are white, Christian, Conservatives. Give up your guns so we can do that more easily.” That is the message here, I just don’t think it’s the big seller that the thinks it is.
Just how far will this will of the majority go? Can the Progressives and Muslims vote the Jews into camps? Can Chick-Fil-A patrons end up on a watch list? What other inalienable rights are subject to simple majority rule?
Weapons of mass death, and the submissive fear they engender, put teeth on that shrinking minority’s entitled claim to indefinite power. Without the threat of violence, what have they really got? Votes? Sooner or later, they won’t have enough, and they know it.
“Once you are a small enough demographic not to win elections anymore we are going to enjoy the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine our boots stamping on your faces — forever.”
And they want us to give up our guns.
The security of the minority’s self-ascribed right to make the rules has become their platform’s major plank, because unpopular rules don’t stand a chance without it. Float a rule that threatens their grip on power, no matter how popular, and it’s “my AR is waiting for you, Robert Francis.”
The First Amendment exists to protect unpopular speech. The Second Amendment exists to protect guns when they are at their most unpopular.
It’s no coincidence that the same people who go after gun rights also want to ban “hate speech.”
They’ll tell you their thinly veiled threats are really about defending their constitutional rights. Don’t believe it. The conservative Supreme Court majority’s 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller found an individual right to own guns for self-protection, but no civilian needs a weapon capable of shooting 26 people in 32 seconds to ward off burglars. The Second Amendment doesn’t grant the right to own one any more than it grants the right to own a surface-to-air missile.
After watching that armored car run over protesters in Venezuela at the hands of a government praised by Hollywood celebs, I’d argue that the Second Amendment does preserve my God given right to own a Carl Gustaf.
They’ll tell you their foreboding “predictions” of lethal resistance are really about preserving the means to protect the republic against an overweening, rights-stomping state. Don’t believe that, either.
It most certainly is.
It’s really about the imagined peril of a multicultural majority running the show. Many countries that do more to protect their citizens against gun violence are more, not less, free than we are. According to the libertarian Cato Institute, 16 countries enjoy a higher level of overall freedom than the United States, and most of them ban or severely restrict ownership of assault weapons. The freedom to have your head blown off in an Applebee’s, to flee in terror from the bang of a backfiring engine, might not be freedom at all.
Ah yes, the “freedom” to have government be your benevolent dictator nanny with a promise of safety that can’t stop a guy with an APB from stabbing you in the head while you ride on the Subway as two NYPD officers watch through the window of the conductor’s cab. I forgot about that freedom.
I’m not too proud to admit that in my misspent libertarian youth, I embraced the idea that a well-armed populace is a bulwark against tyranny. I imagined us a vast Switzerland, hived with rifles to defend our inviolable rights against … Michael Dukakis? What I slowly came to see is that freedom is inseparable from political disagreement and that holding to a trove of weapons as your last line of defense in a losing debate makes normal ideological opposition look like nascent tyranny and readies you to suppress it.
Did he lose his balls in a freak hot soy decaf latte spilling in his lap accident?
So it’s no surprise that the most authoritarian American president in living memory, elected by a paltry minority, is not threatened in the least by citizen militias bristling with military firepower. He knows they’re on his side.
I’m no fan of President Flavored Vape Juice Ban but Sanders, Warren, and Beto, not to mention President Pen and Phone are and would be way worse. You just don’t think it’s authoritarian when you agree with the authoritarians.
Democrats don’t want to grind the rights of Republicans underfoot.
Bull fucking shit.
But when minority-rule radicals hear determined talk of mandatory assault rifle buybacks, they start to feel surrounded. They hear the hammers clicking back, imagine themselves in the majority’s cross hairs.
Yes, this is accurate. Once again, see Ruby Ridge or Wounded Knee.
That’s why they’re unmoved by the mounting heap of slaughtered innocents, by schoolkids missing recess to rehearse being hunted. It’s a sacrifice they’re willing to let other Americans make, because they think democracy’s coming for their power, and they’re right.
So thank you for validating every reason we don’t want to give up our guns.
This entire OpEd was a justification for the Bill of Rights and the Second Amendment specifically.
He just doesn’t understand that because he wants to be the boot stamping in the face.