Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Accommodationism On Parade

I've written on many occasions about the dominant dynamic of politics:

  • That politics is about the pursuit of power over others;
  • That persons who seek power for its own sake will have an edge over all other breeds of politician;
  • That over time, political institutions will develop "filters" that will screen out, either ab initio or by ostracism and disillusion, those whose goal is other than the maximization of the institution's power and perquisites.

Nobel Laureate Friedrich Hayek's famous The Road To Serfdom, in the chapter titled "Why The Worst Get On Top," followed that dynamic to its inevitable zenith: the elevation of ruthless, totalitarian dictators such as Hitler, Stalin, and Mao to supreme power over their nations. In other works, Hayek developed theses about how to countervail that progression. None of those ideas receives the respect of ruling classes in our time, as if any Gentle Reader of Liberty's Torch should need to be told.

The indispensable prerequisite of totalitarian rule is the elimination of all possibility of popular resistance to the regime. Thus, in all such evolutions, we see the removal of the citizen's right to own weapons before the regime exerts its tightest grip. For that reason among many, many others, Americans are well advised to hold fast to the right to keep and bear arms, to exercise it vigorously, and to instruct their children in the importance of maintaining and using it despite all opposition.

For, by the logic of the opening paragraph, opposition there will surely be.

A nation accustomed to freedom, which totalitarians have targeted for subjection, will not bend quickly or easily. Indeed, an attempt at using force to subjugate free men will be turned back upon itself most ruinously; it will be too obviously what it is. But a patient gradualist strategy, that endeavors to slice off thin layers of the public's freedom one at a time, can work terrors, given time.

Most recently, gradualism has been blatantly at work on our right to keep and bear arms: demands for background checks; legislated limitations on magazine capacity; attempts to reinstitute the fatuous "assault weapons ban" of 1994. Fortunately, the proponents of these measures tried a hybrid strategy: the combination of their supposedly "reasonable" demands with a tarantella on the graves of the Sandy Hook victims. That fatally undercut their arguments. After a sufficient number of persons noticed out loud that none of the measures demanded would have impeded homicidal maniac Adam Lanza in the slightest, all such proposals died an unlamented death.

But in politics, bad ideas are like super-vampires: it takes a stake through the heart to pin them down for long, and nothing will kill them off permanently. The Dishonorable Harry Reid has vowed to bring gun control back to center stage in Congress. Various hard-left legislators are slavering at the chance of a rematch. Perhaps all they're waiting for is another slaughter. We shall see.

What's uppermost on my mind today is the combination of the dynamic of political power with gradualist strategy, and how even persons who really ought to know better have begun to succumb to it.

Hearken to longtime libertarian writer Claire Wolfe:

The other day, when I read the strange gun-control rant of Cato’s Robert Levy, the passage that struck me as most strange — most overwhelmingly, neon-bright, screaming-from-the-page strange — was this one:
Gun-rights advocates should use this interval to refine their priorities and support this measure [a revived Manchin-Toomey], with a few modest changes. If they don’t, they will be opening themselves to accusations from President Obama and others that they are merely obstructionists, zealots who will not agree to common-sense gun legislation.

I’ve probably read that passage 10 times and I cannot fathom why Levy wrote it. Can he sincerely believe that any gun-rights advocate on Planet Earth should worry that Obama will think we’re too uncompromising?

Obama is well-known as an intolerant man, an authoritarian who brooks no deviation at all from his party line. Even if for some crazy reason gun-rights advocates wanted to please him, the only way to do so would be to give up our advocacy entirely. Merely leaning in his direction for the sake of “common sense” would achieve nothing except to let him and his allies know we’re suckers who can be manipulated and bent.

But why would we even want to try please a man who is inimical to everything we love and value? Why does Robert Levy think we should want that? That’s just bizarre.

And who are these vague “others” we’re supposed to be trying to please? The high-school quarterback? The head of the Mean Girls clique? The school dean? Carolyn McCarthy? Frank Lautenberg?

Can you picture those folks ever being pleased with us? Can you picture them “respecting” us more if we tried to meet their standards? Ha!

Miss Wolfe has the right of it. Levy is arguing for an accommodationist stance, from gun-rights advocates who've never received an iota of respect from our adversaries, much less simple candor about their true agenda. Why, after all the money, effort, and strife we've put into defending our gun rights, should we accommodate our sworn enemies? What would it gain us? Certainly not their gratitude.

Yet there are persons in both houses of Congress, who claim to support the right to keep and bear arms, who have attacked other, sincere supporters for not accommodating the enemy:

Speaking of the recent debate over gun control, Cruz told the audience at a FreedomWorks summit in Texas that the issue “generated more heat” inside the party than any other in recent memory. There were several lunches, he revealed, where fellow Republicans confronted him and his allies “yelling at us at the top of their lungs.”

Along with Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), [Senator Ted] Cruz put out a letter threatening to filibuster Democratic gun legislation. Republican senators were upset, Cruz said, by town hall attendees demanding they join the effort.

“There are a lot of people who don’t like to be held accountable,” he said.

The Wall Street Journal attacked the group for letting President Obama blame Republicans for blocking gun control instead of moderate Democrats. Cruz said senators made a similar argument: “They said, ‘Listen, before you did this, the politics of it were great. The [Democrats] were the bad guys, the Republicans were the good guys. Now we all look like a bunch of squishes.’” He replied, Cruz told the crowd, “’Well, there is an alternative. You could just not be a bunch of squishes.’”

The above-named senators were staunchly against all the gun-control proposals laid before them, were unabashed about saying so -- and for their stand on principle they reaped the enmity of their fellow Republican senators, supposedly just as committed to protecting gun rights. Why?

Simply, because the majority of Congressional Republicans are more attached to their positions, powers, and perquisites than they are to any principle. They hope to remain where they are for a long time, and they fear that by not acceding to the Left's gradualist tactics, the Main Stream Media will charge them with being "not someone Democrats can work with."

Given the general recognition that the Democrats' true desire is the complete destruction of the right to keep and bear arms -- the Dishonorable Major Owens actually introduced a bill calling for the repeal of the Second Amendment some years ago -- why else would any Republican want to be thought of as "someone Democrats can work with" on this subject?

The willingness to accommodate one's sworn enemies is a dead giveaway to one's true priorities.

Success reinforces the tactics employed. Whenever the Left manages to seduce the supposedly conservative Republican caucuses in Congress into a "compromise," it encourages the Left to try that gambit again...usually for "progressively" higher stakes. When the subject at controversy is an individual right, compromise destroys the right itself. It is not the final excisions which accomplish the destruction, but the initial ones, for they demote a right, an absolute natural possession of the individual, to a permission conditionally conceded by the State, which the State may qualify, restrict, or withdraw as it pleases.

Recognized, Constitutionally guaranteed individual rights are the sole barrier between the citizen and those who would enslave him. Make no mistake: they who would abridge your rights on grounds of "compelling government interest," "public safety," "for the children," or any other reason are would-be slavemasters. In their eyes, you and your fellow Americans are their rightful property, and they mean to have you.

Let the accommodationists in Congress know that you will not be sold at any price.

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