The War on Liberty

The War on Liberty
Taking Aim at Lady Liberty

As the 2010 Midterm Elections loom, it is appropriate to examine what the Republicans have done to destroy our country. It is easy to dismiss such questions with answers of “they’re all the same” but they’re not, and the facts demonstrate this for any and all who have an interest in evidence over the diktat of ideology.

For eight years, the Bush administration plundered the American people, violated the Constitution, and tarnished our image abroad with egregious breaches of international law. America came close to becoming a rogue state, a brand of American exceptionalism so extreme that it seemed America was above the laws that bound the rest of the civilized world together. Grievous harm was done, some of it likely irreparable.

While the Obama administration has reversed some of these policies, it has embraced others; as totalitarianism creeps closer, democracy is pushed back. Those who hold power do not relinquish it once gained, and the Executive has become dangerously powerful, throwing the delicate system of checks and balances all out of kilter. As Paul Starr wrote in The American Prospect in 2006, “The real danger today is the loaded weapon that Bush and his defenders are willing to put in the hands of all future presidents.” Tyranny is the logical end-place should the powers of the Executive not be checked.

This is not the first time the Constitution has come under attack. Starr goes on to observe that,

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Repeatedly through our history, the liberties guaranteed by the Constitution have been threatened in war by an overreacting government and then reaffirmed in peace by calmer leadership. The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus, the suppression of free speech during and after World War I, the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, McCarthyism, and the wiretapping of Vietnam-era dissenters — all of these came to be seen, once fears subsided, as violations of our freedoms and embarrassments to our heritage.

Bush is largely responsible for creating an “imperial presidency”; by claiming “”Unitary Executive” power, he announced to the world – and was unchallenged by a cowed Congress – that the law was what he said it was. He may have never said that the Constitution was just a “goddamn piece of paper” but his every action confirmed that this was his attitude toward the document that creates and binds this nation together.

But the Constitution, if America is to survive in any form recognizable to the Founders, must be more than a mere set of guidelines or suggestions. It is a living, flexible document, but it cannot be twisted like a pretzel. Like anything else, it will shatter if enough stress is applied.

The attack on America from within was persistent and ruthless: John Conyers (D-MI) is on record (2005) as stating that the Bush administrations violations of law were “not only serious, but widespread.” And in 2005, Bush was far from done with America. The Bush administration violated six amendments and the writ of habeas corpus and only Congress may legally suspend habeas corpus. By 2006 the Boston Globe was able to report that Bush had “claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution.”

Essentially, Bush played Pompey, using a national emergency to vest within himself dictatorial powers. The Roman Republic did not survive Pompey for Pompey made Caesar possible and Caesar killed the Republic. Each blow against the Constitution weakens the structure. But the Constitution does not make the president king, though it grants him enough power that today, that even if he restrains his impulses, he is the most powerful person on earth. Congress too has a Constitutional role, as does the Supreme Court. If either of these abrogates their powers, if they do not function as intended, liberty comes under attack.

The Republicans have come dangerously close to asserting the divine right of kings. Bush claimed to be appointed not by the American people but by God. Other Republican politicians and pundits claim that only Christians are fit (or should be legally allowed) to hold public office, and Article VI section 3 is repeatedly violated in word if not in deed when these Republicans pretend that there is a religious test for public office. America has become the New Rome and the president chosen by God. If this is true, then the Republican Party is indeed God’s Own Party and only they have a legitimate claim to power, resulting today in the idea that the Democrats – and Obama – are usurpers and the Republican leadership is a government in exile.

This is as preposterous as it is dangerous, and Americans must wake up and recognize this – and resist. The Republicans continue to utilize the weapon of fear embraced by the Bush administration. Do as we say, or America will be destroyed, is their message. Turn your back on God and he will turn his back on you. In truth, if we do what they say, America will be destroyed – utterly – because the Republican path is the road to ruin, a headlong rush toward the Rubicon and a mortal blow to the Constitution.

The Republican leadership of 2010 offers America nothing Bush did not already offer in 2001. President Obama has repeatedly warned that their message is the same message that got us into trouble in the first place and he is not wrong. The championing of States Rights invokes the specter of the Confederacy, and racism the dark shadow of slavery, and the appeal to “Second Amendment remedies” is nothing short of a promise of treason. Do it our way, or we will overthrow the government; if we can’t have America, there will be no America. That is their message. That is their promise.

They say they want to take America back, but folks, the America they claim to represent never existed, not in the minds of the Founding Fathers and not in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. Neither the President nor Congress, nor the Supreme Court has defended the Constitution. This leaves liberty just one defender: the American people.

Liberty stands for human rights and freedoms. It was appreciation of America’s embrace of liberty that brought Lady Liberty to these shores. If we won’t defend her now, we might as well send her back, because we will have proven ourselves unworthy of her.

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