The Corner

When Thugs and Liars Lose

When faced with corruption and deception, it’s easy to lose hope. I confess that after seeing the lengths that some Democrats and leftists will go to to secure their hold on power, I’ve sometimes had a tendency to despair. But last night was a tonic to the soul, on at least two counts.

First, what George Will called the “nastiest political tactic of the year” failed utterly. And what was that tactic? The abuse of Wisconsin law enforcement to terrify conservative activists into silence and submission:

The early-morning paramilitary-style raids on citizens’ homes were conducted by law enforcement officers, sometimes wearing bulletproof vests and lugging battering rams, pounding on doors and issuing threats. Spouses were separated as the police seized computers, including those of children still in pajamas. Clothes drawers, including the children’s, were ransacked, cellphones were confiscated and the citizens were told that it would be a crime to tell anyone of the raids.

Some raids were precursors of, others were parts of, the nastiest episode of this unlovely political season, an episode that has occurred in an unlikely place. This attempted criminalization of politics to silence people occupying just one portion of the political spectrum has happened in Wisconsin, which often has conducted robust political arguments with Midwestern civility.

Led by a highly partisan prosecutor and allegedly motivated by a union-activist wife, the predawn raids and corresponding criminal investigations represented little more than an effort to criminalize dissent. Wisconsin Democrats, far from recoiling at the thuggish abuse of power, were only too happy to exploit the investigations to create a cloud of suspicion around Governor Walker and his campaign.

They lost.

Next, it was hardly surprising that the thoroughly disingenuous “war on women” — a fabricated concept from the start — would generate two of the season’s most mendacious ads. There was, of course, NARAL’s famous “sweat pea” ad that claimed Republicans would ban birth control. But that ad was surpassed by Tennessee’s abortion-industry-funded campaign to preserve my home state as a judicially created abortion supermarket. Unable to attack pro-life Amendment 1 on the merits (the Amendment took control of abortion regulation out of the hands of Tennessee judges and restored it to the Tennessee legislature), they went so far as to claim that the amendment would interfere with “marriage and child-rearing rights.”

The amendment plainly and explicitly dealt with abortion only, with the key language declaring: “Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion.” 

Thankfully, Planned Parenthood lost.

But we can’t allow election triumphs to lull conservatives into thinking such tactics are doomed. After all, we’re only two years removed from a successful Democratic presidential campaign that launched the absurd war-on-women rhetoric, and Scott Walker’s victories shouldn’t blind us to the fact that even now Texas governor Rick Perry is fighting his own battle with absurdly politicized law enforcement.

Election wins are satisfying, but they won’t stop the lies, nor will they stop the left’s lawfare. When it comes to the lies, the best way to answer deceptive speech is with truthful speech. But when it comes to leftist lawfare, we conservatives need to learn to punch back twice as hard. Lawfully and cleanly, of course, but relentlessly — until the Left learns that legal abuse carries serious legal consequences.

David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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