Nothing stirs the passions of Democrats these days quite like the prospect of gutting the Constitution. In an unprecedented act of pretend political bravery, House members held a catered sit-in, demanding that Republicans allow a vote to strip away protections of the Second, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments of the Constitution. It was quite the scene.
There were the selfie-happy Democrats singing “We Shall Overcome” while demanding passage of a bill that those right-wing nutjobs over at the American Civil Liberties Union have “strongly” argued would undermine civil liberties. As of this writing, no participant has been beaten down by the cops or thrown into a dank cell, although iPhones were probably getting perilously low on juice for those who’d forgotten their chargers.
Sit strong, heroes!
The message was clear, though. If we recklessly cling to the presumption of innocence, the terrorists have already won. If we fail to let bureaucrats create extrajudicial secret government lists that deny Americans their right to due process, we are, in essence, selling ISIS weapons of mass destruction.
Civil rights–era heroes like Representative John Lewis, who lent his considerable legacy to this vacuous grandstanding, was once on the terror watch list himself. He didn’t know how he got on it. He didn’t know how to get off it. Yet today he believes this Kafkaesque system is a sound way to deny his fellow citizens their rights.
This is the Democratic party of 2016. Engaging in emotional blackmail and demagoguery, and waving pictures of the victims of Islamic terrorism to push an unrelated bill that would not have saved a single one of those lives and will never pass, all the while lying about guns. Lying about the laws that govern guns and refusing to vote for, or even discuss, a compromise measure Republicans forwarded in the Senate. It’s been far more important to gin up anger and moral outrage for political gain.
This is the Democratic party of 2016. Waving pictures of the victims of Islamic terrorism to push an unrelated bill that would not have saved a single one of those lives, all the while lying about guns.
Don’t get me wrong. I hope Democrats dig deep and find the steely resolve to disrupt all of Washington D.C.’s business until they are given a vote — for weeks or months, if necessary. Shut it all down. It won’t be easy. I mean, it’s going to take some serious courage to support a measure with support polling in the high 80s. But anything less is a moral capitulation to the nefarious National Rifle Association.
Although there are principled progressives who oppose these efforts, it is worth mentioning that many of the same liberals who claim that the filibuster — conducted within the norms of the Senate — is unhinged obstructionism celebrate Democrats themselves. When a shutdown looms because of the GOP, we are bombarded with stories about a broken political system. This event, rest assured, will be treated quite differently. As inane as it is, it will be framed as a “historic” moment that may/could/did change everything in the fight against gun violence. It has already started.
Well, it’s definitely a histrionic moment. When House Speaker Paul Ryan tried to gavel the body into session the first time, he was shouted down by chants of “Shame, shame, shame” and “No bill, no break” (Remember that national discussion on civility?), and drowned out by rising applause from a bunch of people who are perpetually searching for their ’60s moment.
Representative Sandy Levin (D., Mich.) claimed that “this may turn out to be a Selma-like moment relating to gun violence in the United States of America.”
Ah, the “Selma”-envy moment. The entire day was drenched in that kind of sanctimony. In an interview with MSNBC, Representative Seth Moulton asked, “Were the civil-rights organizers just breaking rules and getting publicity?” No. Now, Moulton says a lot of purposefully misleading things about guns in an attempt to scare Americans who don’t know any better. It takes a special kind of duplicity, though, to anoint oneself a defender of civil liberties while pushing an authoritarian measure that would deny millions of Americans some of their most basic constitutional rights.