If you don’t believe big government liberalism has its roots in the ideology of the professional classes, or that it’s centrist and managerial at its heart, just take a look at what mainstream liberals regard as “extreme” these days.
A while back, a newspaper columnist in my town called out gun rights advocates for believing their guns might be necessary someday to defend them against government tyranny. The idea that “our” government might turn against us in this day and age, she said, was “unthinkable.” As I’ve said before in regard to others of her worldview, the fact that she dismisses outright the possibility of government authoritarianism says more about her own pink suburban background and the Officer Friendly world she lives in than about any state of affairs in the real world.
When Jesse Ventura suggested a couple of weeks ago that Bush might have lied this country into war for the sake of business interests, the women on The View looked at him liked he’d accused the British royal family of being lizard people from another dimension. My God, next thing you know he’ll be saying Nixon broke into the Democratic Party headquarters to throw the election, or that LBJ faked a pretext for war in Vietnam, or something crazy like that.
Today I heard Bart Stupak, referring to Michelle Bachmann’s allusion to Jefferson (“it’s a good thing to have a revolution every twenty years or so”), respond that we just had one in the last election. In this country, he said, we have our revolutions through the electoral process. “That’s what Jefferson meant by that quote,” he said. Um, no, it wasn’t. What Jefferson meant was the kind of revolution that Captain Shays was fighting in western Massachusetts at the time he wrote.
You’d expect people like that might have just a smidgen of trouble glossing over the fact that this country was founded on a revolution that overthrew the established governments of the colonies, but in fact they do so with little trouble. As the anarchist Voltarine DeCleyre noted over a century ago, from the public schools’ accounts of the American Revolution you’d have difficulty understanding why it was even called a revolution, as opposed to just a patriotic foreign war against another country. They substitute the establishment of the Constitution for the Revolution, as the main founding act of this country, commonly arguing that this country was founded by people who trusted government, who wanted a government that was stronger and more effective (“a more perfect union”). Except for one thing: the people involved in the Federalist coup were pretty much outside the revolutionary mainstream. The Federalists were generally the people who most reluctantly embraced the break with Britain, and also those most eager to create a new federal center to replace Parliament as the center of the new Empire-without-Britain. The Federalists wanted to recreate the Empire as closely as possible, with Walpolean finance and Mansfieldian jurisprudence and a Congress that represented the landed and moneyed interests.
The whole idea of resisting constituted authority has become so “extreme,” in this country founded on the overthrow of constituted authority, that liberal academician Melissa Harris-Lacewell has argued that it was a greater act of infamy to spit on Congressman John Lewis and use the n-word today than it was forty-odd years ago because today he “is no longer just a brave American fighting for the soul of his country—he is an elected official. He is an embodiment of the state.” So today, in a country founded on violent revolution, we see a liberal intellectual using language that might have come from one of Charles I’s pronouncements on passive non-resistance.
As Charles Davis put it, “Yeah, you know, before Lewis just marched in the streets against racism and state-enforced segregation as a (ho-hum) private citizen, but now he chairs a subcommittee—show him some respect!”
Guess what? Bull Connor was an elected official. George Wallace and Strom Thurmond were embodiments of the state.