An editorial in the New York Times yesterday takes Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle to task for her incendiary comments regarding the Second Amendment. (See also this report in the Washington Post, and this story about her dodging questions by a local tv reporter.) Angle's comments go far beyond the usual pandering to the advocates of private gun ownership. When Angle talks about people having to fight for their liberty in more Second Amendment ways, or asking "what will be the next step?" if she does not win at the ballot box, she is going far beyond advocating gun ownership, and instead challenging democracy itself. Condemning these kinds of remarks in New York Times editorials is all well and good, but perhaps people need to get even more alarmed than that.
What I think people who generally support the current administration and the Democratic Congress need to do is get over our earlier romanticizing of protest, especially when it verges into revolution and riot and violence. I grew up in the 1960's, and was strongly supportive of Civil Rights and anti-war protests. Back then we used to spout a lot of anti-government rhetoric, and talk passionately about the virtues of dissent and protest. And that kind of rhetoric carried those movements pretty far . . . until it turned violent. When the anti-war protesters and urban rioters started appearing too threatening to the average American, that was when people embraced the law and order candidacy of Richard Nixon. I'm still not sure we have learned the lessons of how counter-productive the more militant aspects of those 1960's movements turned out to be.
Nowadays, almost all of the anti-government rhetoric is coming from the right. They are the ones who are quoting Tom Paine now. And it is the left that needs to be standing up for law and order and the silent majority. We need to be waving the American flag, and wrapping ourselves in the Constitution. I'm all for supporting the First Amendment rights of the tea party movement to march in the streets peacefully, and shout whatever slogans they want. But when they start waving their guns around and threatening violence, that is when their opponents need to denounce them forcefully, and even start getting people a little scared about where such tactics may lead. Being on the side of peace and democracy is not only the right thing to do, it is also the politically smart thing to do. Because the average American does not want to see militant mobs attacking the government of the United States, and is not going to support Tea Party protesters if they appear to be threatening and disruptive. So we need to keep hounding people like Sharron Angle to expose the more dangerous aspects of their rhetoric. And we need to stress that the way to resolve political conflicts is to do so rationally and peacefully, with respect for the rights of the minority, as well as the will of the majority.
(photo from News Junkie Post)