At the beginning of December, Rolling Stone writer Jeff Goodell asked Secretary of State John Kerry whether Charles and David Koch, two libertarian political activists, should be considered — his remarkable words — “an enemy of the state.” He posed the same question about Exxon, and John Kerry, who could have been president of these United States, said that he looked forward to the seizure of Exxon’s assets for the crime of “proselytizing” impermissibly about the question of global warming.
An enemy of the state? That’s the Democrats’ theme for the New Year: totalitarianism.
Donald Trump may talk like a brownshirt, but the Democrats mean business. For those of you keeping track, the Democrats and their allies on the left have now: voted in the Senate to repeal the First Amendment, proposed imprisoning people for holding the wrong views on global warming, sought to prohibit the showing of a film critical of Hillary Rodham Clinton, proposed banning politically unpopular academic research, demanded that funding politically unpopular organizations and causes be made a crimeand that the RICO organized-crime statute be used as a weapon against targeted political groups. They have filed felony charges against a Republican governor for vetoing a piece of legislation, engaged in naked political persecutions of members of Congress, and used the IRS and the ATF as weapons against political critics.
On the college campuses, they shout down unpopular ideas or simply forbid nonconforming views from being heard there in the first place. They have declared academic freedom an “outdated concept” and have gone the full Orwell, declaring that freedom is oppressive and that they should not be expected to tolerate ideas that they do not share. They are demanding mandatory ideological indoctrination sessions for nonconforming students. They have violently assaulted students studying in libraries andassaulted student journalists documenting their activities. They have staged dozens of phony hate crimes and sexual assaults as a pretext for persecuting unpopular organizations and people.
What they cannot achieve by legislation or litigation, they seek to achieve by simple violence, left-wing activists having smashed, looted, and burned portions of Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore, where Koreans and other Asian minorities were specifically targeted. As on college campuses, they have made a point of assaulting journalistsdocumenting their violence. They have rioted in Philadelphia and in other cities.
They are not backing away from that. Hillary Rodham Clinton may do her vice-principal shtick, but Bernie Sanders is calling for “revolution,” and by “revolution” he means crushing the economic and political rights of opponents in order to prevent them from having a say in political debate. Sounding oddly like Henry Ford, he seethes as he talks about scheming foreigners and international bankers working nefariously behind the scenes to undermine American interests, while his admirers brandish such traditional symbols of totalitarianism as the hammer-and-sickle flag.
They have sought to use the FCC to revoke the broadcast licenses of Rupert Murdoch and other political hate totems, and have long dreamt of using federal regulation to shut down conservative talk radio. They have gone to the Supreme Court to argue that they should be empowered to ban books, films, magazines, and newspapers when they desire to do so for political reasons. They are energetic suppressors of free speech.
It is possible to have a robust, energetic political discourse within the parameters of American liberalism, which cherishes freedom of speech and of inquiry, which distinguishes between public and private spheres, which relies upon the rule of law and the Bill of Rights while placing limits on the reach of the state. But if you reject that, as our so-called liberals have, then you cannot have genuine political discourse, or genuine democracy. When he was asked about having fabricated a story about Mitt Romney’s not paying taxes, Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid made a straight-up might-makes-right argument: “Romney didn’t win, did he?” You cannot have much of an argument without some level of honesty, which is a problem for a country that probably is going to be subjected to yet another Clinton campaign. You cannot have much of an argument without freedom of speech, and you cannot have democracy if political activism is criminalized. The Democrats are seeking to restrict speech, and they already have criminalized politics: Ask Rick Perry about that, or Tom Delay.
The Right cannot be indifferent to this, because we simply do not have that option: It is our speech that they intend to prohibit first, and it is us that they are attempting to imprison for our political views. But the Left should not be indifferent to this, either. There are at least a few (and, one suspects, more than that) liberals of the old-fashioned variety in the Democratic party, and it is not at all clear that they are going wish to remain part of a political organization that is seriously attempting to create a class of political prisoners, to ban books, and to drive people from their jobs and communities for their political beliefs.
John Kerry cannot quite answer the question of whether one of his political rivals should be declared “an enemy of the state.” Between now and November 2016, Americans might want to think a bit about whether they wish to invest an openly totalitarian political party with the power of the presidency.
— Kevin D. Williamson is roving correspondent at National Review.