The entrenched DC Republican establishment is obsessed with “electability” – good and Constitutional governance be damned. They insist that the only road to electoral victory is through big government glad-handing.
Reagan 180: Spending And Bureacracy
It’s what I call “DC solutionism,” an irrational belief that all real answers and solutions naturally begin and usually also end in the cavernous halls of Washington bureaucracy and legalese. We used to call them liberals and, sometimes, less-specific identified as just Democrats. Now we call them simply “incumbents” without the silly archaic need for specific party reference. The centralized DC mentality has indeed infected the Republican club as well.
The Republican establishment [aka "The Club," (TM)] is in fact more liberal than many of the milquetoast candidates they parade your way every four years. Their livelihoods are in elections, and they churn their own elections by pedaling “DC solutions.” (Read: Someone else’s money.) The longer they are in DC, the more unmoored they become from both localized economic reality and the ideas of Constitutional governance that they maybe, just maybe, might have arrived in DC with originally.
And this drift towards centralized government “solutions” and the necessary accompanying centralized government control has blurred the lines between once distinct political parties.
So when the RNC, its anointed and preferred candidates, their supporters and donor bandwagons cry out about “electability,” what they mean without saying forthrightly is that the key to winning an election is being likable and handing out stuff from the big DC trunk.
How’s that working for “The Club”? For you? For Constitutional governance? Well, let’s see… Aside from two nail-biter wins by George W. Bush, we will have had 16 years of Bill and Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama in four asswhippings. “The Club” keeps giving us their old guard liberal Republican Senators in Bush 41, Bob Dole and John McCain. Breaking the mold, we end up with a non-Senatorial member of “The Club” in Governor Romney, the inventor of Obamacare. (Yeah, whatever. Save your breath, defenders. You people bore me with your distinctions that don’t resonate with anyone who isn’t a political junkie – the 97% of the country too busy working.)
The last time a Republican really won an election with a confident mandate was also the last time a true Conservative ran. And the blueprint is so simple it inspires disbelief. Yet there it is: Believe in (and understand) The Constitution and its limits on government overtly designed to preserve Liberty, believe in the American people and our uniquely American sense of individualism, and be able to speak in complete sentences.
In this second edition of Reagan 180, a three minute excerpt from Ronald Reagan’s 1979 announcement of his candidacy for president is a short sample of what proved to be the blueprint for two massive electoral landslides. He didn’t promise to give this program or that program. He promised to get Washington the hell out of the way. He wanted to go to Washington to affect it’s doing less, not more.
It seems counter-intuitive to today’s DC Republicans. No way anyone can campaign and win on doing and giving away less. But landslides don’t lie. They’re not close enough to be debatable.
How many are in DC today to reign it in and have it do less, returning many functions to the states to decide and carry out as constructed and instructed by the Constitution? How many “believe in (and understand) The Constitution and its limits on government overtly designed to preserve Liberty, believe in the American people and our uniquely American sense of individualism”? And how many of those left standing can communicate in complete sentences, all by themselves like big boys and girls? Talk about culling the herd.
Well, that’s all it takes to get the American public behind a candidate and his or her administration that moves inside the beltway from somewhere comfortably outside it before the election. The blueprint is right there. But if you don’t share the beliefs, you’ll resist and ridicule the example. And there you have it. In less than 3 minutes of audio.
Earlier today, I put together a post saying that the Bill of Rights trumps the Civil Rights Act. It is so because the Rights are inherent in individuals, meaning that Congress has no power to pass a law abrogating those rights (at least not without a very good reason). I even prepared a nice little chart to walk people through my thinking in this regard. As part of the chart, I noted that, in theory, Muslims can use the Bill of Rights to justify subordinating women. Just a few hours later, a friend sent me a link to this news story out of Canada (which does not have a First Amendment):
Barbers in Toronto who refused to cut a woman’s hair have become the target of a human rights complaint, in a case that pits religious freedom against gender equality.
When Faith McGregor went into the Terminal Barber Shop requesting a short haircut, she was told the shop only grooms men.
The reason, co-owner Omar Mahrouk said, was that as a Muslim he could not cut the hair of a woman who was not related to him.
But for McGregor, the rejection of her patronage amounted to sexism.
“Fundamentally, my hair is the same as their male clients, so why would they have a problem with that,” she told CTV News.
“I felt like a second class citizen, like it was hard to hear that they refused and there was no discussion.”
So the 35-year-old filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.
Read the rest here.
One can make a very good argument that the reason the First Amendment had such a good run for a couple of hundred years was because, while Americans might have had doctrinal differences, they shared the same values about core issues: marriage, sexual orientation, self-reliance, etc. Now, though, with Leftism ascendent and an increasingly large Muslim population, the tensions being placed upon the Bill of Rights have become unsustainable. Something’s got to give — and the Left is well-situated to make sure that it’s the Judeo-Christian tradition that cries “Uncle” first.
I am watching a lot of television lately. A lot. Even I, a truly prodigious reader, find it hard to read every minute of the time I’m hooked up to my continuous passive motion machine. When I finally tire of reading, I have limited mobility, especially by nightfall, when my balance on crutches seems to take a dive off the cliff. This means that, when the rest of the family wants to watch TV in the evening, I’m something of a captive audience.
I’m not complaining. Instead, I’m explaining why it is that I’ve been watching Jon Stewart’s Daily Show these past few days. Usually I leave the room when he starts, because I find his mixture of genuine and faux stupidity irritating. It’s not a witty show, which I would be able to watch even though I disagree with the politics. It’s a witless show, and dishonest to boot.
Few things highlight these abysmal qualities more than a segment Jon Stewart did about Boehner’s announcement that Republicans would not go forward with any immigration reform because they couldn’t trust Obama to enforce it. For anyone paying attention to the Constitution and the facts on the ground Republican fears are reasonable. Obama, despite his job description as chief executive officer, tasked with enforcing the laws that Congress passes, has a history of refusing to enforce laws he doesn’t like, especially when it comes to immigration.
More recently, with Obamacare, despite the Lefts’ strident screams in October that Obamacare is the “law of the land” and cannot ever be touched — even by the Congress that passed it — Obama has changed the law almost 30 times. Indeed, he’s changed the law so often, he’s even riled his supporters. Boehner may also find it a little difficult to trust Obama since Obama lied knowingly, intentionally, and repeatedly in connection with Obamacare’s passage and implementation. It was the biggest fraud ever committed by a government official against the American people.
So how does Stewart defend Obama’s lawless actions? He doesn’t bother to defend Obama. Instead, he attacks Republicans as hypocrites because they have also tried to change the law. In other words, how dare Republicans complain about Obama’s changes to Obamacare when they also wanted to change it?
Is it really possible that Stewart is so stupid that he believes that Congress should not change, or attempt to change, a law if the president is not allowed to do so himself? I find it hard to believe that Stewart is quite that dumb. And if he’s smart, he and his team are writing shticks deliberately intended to mislead an audience that Stewart presumably knows is dumb enough not to understand that, while the president is constitutionally barred from unilaterally changing or refusing to enforce laws, Congress’s sole function is to pass, edit, and revoke laws.
Anyway, see for yourself the type of fraud Stewart commits against an audience so ignorant and ideological that it elected Barack Obama, not just once but twice:
According to Power Line, when a Fox News Poll asked people point blank whether our system supports a president circumventing Congress, 74% of respondents said “no” and only 23% said “yes.” That answer was only marginally different when the question was re-framed to ask people to ignore the way things should be under our Constitution and, instead, to answer whether they thought it was okay for Barack Obama to circumvent Congress. In that case, 60% of respondents thought that it still wasn’t okay and only 37% of them approved of Obama acting as a dictator.
My very first thought when I read about that 37% was that I think I know every one of them on my real-me Facebook. In that Facebook account, with the exception of conservative friends I’ve made in the last few years, and a handful of apolitical people, everyone else in my world — the world made up of school friends, work friends, and neighborhood people — is rabidly Progressive.
These Progressives have been silent since October, when it became clear that Obamacare was going to be an even more dismal, dysfunctional failure than Republicans predicted. Now, however, with Obama promising to enact his agenda unilaterally, they’re happy again. When they’re not celebrating gay rights (and I’d so that, gay or straight, 75% of their political Facebook posts are about gay rights), they’re starting to put up MoveOn.org style posters encouraging what most Americans recognize as Obama’s lawlessness.
If one were to ask my highly educated, well compensated friends to support their position, I’m sure that all would reply that (a) whatever is wrong now is the fault of Republicans in Congress and (b) that the ends justify the means. That phrase, incidentally, is one of the scariest in the English language.
Nor would any of them be fazed if they were shown Obama’s blatant hypocrisy:
These Progressives would only say, again, that it’s not hypocrisy at all. The problem wasn’t executive overreach, they’d say, it was Bush’s executive overreach. When Obama does the same thing, it’s different.
A caller to the Rush Limbaugh show today asked Rush how to get the media to change its tune. Rush’s response was that this will never happen. The media is an arm of the Democrat Party and that’s the end of it. Conservatives have to make their case outside of the media, he said. It can be done too, Rush added, pointing to Scott Walker’s success in fighting back an attempted recall and in beginning to make changes to Wisconsin’s hard Left culture.
What Rush left unspoken, since his show ended there, are the practical steps that ordinary people can take to expose other people (Leftists and non-political types alike) to facts and ideas that the media refuses to cover or contemplate. I happen to believe that Social Media is a wonderful way, both to learn what ordinary Progressives think (it’s seldom pretty) and to introduce new ideas to people whose world is contained within the four corners of the MSM.
I had a most illuminating Facebook conversation with a Progressive just today regarding the Obama administration’s full throttle effort to force the Little Sisters of the Poor – a Catholic charity staffed by nuns – to fund abortions.
On Facebook, since I’m fully aware of my liberal friends’ biases, I’m always careful to cite to sources that they belief are reliably leftist. After all, events sometimes force even the Washington Post or the New York Times to be honest about the facts.
This time, I linked to the USA Today editorial stating that the Obama administration has gone too far by attacking the nuns. I figured that, even though USA Today lacks the status of the New York Times (New York Times readers think that they’re the most intelligent and informed news consumers in America), it still has liberal street creds.
Oy, was I wrong! A Facebook friend who used to be a real friend decades ago when we were both non-political, went completely ballistic. He first offered a nasty opinion about the Church. When I politely asked him to back up his views with data, he doubled down on his attacks against the Church and stated explicitly destroying religious people’s political reach has to trump the Bill of Rights.
You’ll notice as you read our Facebook conversation that I was relentlessly pleasant, and that was true despite his frequently offensive statements. I also left on the table several issues that he raised as part of his attack on the church and the constitution. That was deliberate.
It quickly became clear to me that nothing I could say would change his mind. (And it will become clear to you too as you read on.) However, I was mindful of the fact that about 150 other people, almost all Progressives (because of the liberal enclaves in which I’ve always lived) would also be reading this back and forth.
Given the invisible audience I could reasonably assume I had, given that many people have told me that they sign on to Facebook solely to read what I post, I stuck to a very narrowly focused goal. I wanted to provide a reasonable intellectual foundation supporting the nuns’ position. I live in hope that Democrats who are beginning to feel uncomfortable about the administration’s decision to bully nuns will think about what I said. I was therefore worried that if I got too confrontational or started following red herrings with a die-hard ideologue, I’d lose my more important, albeit invisible and silent, audience.
The following is a non-verbatim rendering of my Facebook conversation. I’ve carefully retained the gist of what he and I said, but have changed the words to protect his privacy. He was a jerk, but even jerks deserve privacy. He wrote on my Facebook wall assuming that his identity wouldn’t be broadcast far and wide, and I have to honor that.
So, to set the stage, I linked, without comment, to USA Today’s editorial about the Obama regime’s overreach in its demand that nuns fund abortions and birth control. The following written dialogue ensued.
Him: They shouldn’t get any special treatment just because of their beliefs. None of the rest of us do.
Me: I’m not clear what you mean about “special treatment.” This is the first law ever that’s forced religious organizations and people to fund something that’s doctrinally prohibited.
Him: I don’t get why, just because they’re religious Christians attacking birth control, their beliefs trump other strongly held religious beliefs.
Me: I’m still confused. What are some examples of the government forcing people to act in opposition to strongly held religious beliefs or to fund others to commit those same types of acts?
Him: Okay. It’s not fair that religious organizations are tax exempt, which means I have to pay more taxes, essentially funding them. Lots of states won’t allow gay marriage because these tax-exempt churches have campaigned against it. Also, just because the Hobby Lobby owners don’t like birth control, they refuse to provide it to their employees.
Me: Given how political churches have gotten, you’re right about doing away with those tax breaks. [When I wrote those words, I was actually thinking about how political Leftist churches have gotten, but the point is the same.] Still, your other examples seem to me to miss the point. The editorial is talking about the fact that the government is using its taxing authority to force religious groups or individuals (or business owners) to engage in or fund activities that are antithetical to core belief systems. As far as I can tell, that runs directly counter to the 1st Amendment’s promise that the government cannot interfere with Americans’ freedom of worship.
Him: You’re trying to pick and choose your arguments. Religious people aren’t trying to defund that military. After all, don’t a lot of religions prohibit killing?
Me: [I made the decision here to ignore the red herring about religions and killing.] Your argument ignores the Constitution, which expressly contemplates a military as a core government function. There is a way to change that so as to allow conscientious objectors to refuse to pay taxes designated for the military, but you’d need a constitutional amendment. Unlike funding a standing army as part of the government, though, there’s nothing in the Constitution that mandates that private citizens are entitled to contraception and the morning-after pill, or that other citizens must pay for those services. That means the people and groups opposed to the ACA mandate have the stronger constitutional argument.
Him: The Constitution is irrelevant to this. What enrages me is that powerful people use religion to manipulate and control other people.
Me: I’m confused again. The nuns aren’t manipulating or controlling anyone. They’re asking that the government refrain from manipulating and controlling them by forcing them to pay for something that their religion prohibits. The Church has been opposing abortion and birth control for thousands of years, while the ACA’s demand that all Americans pay for all other Americans’ birth control and morning after pills is just four years old. Isn’t it unreasonable to ask the Catholic church to give up two thousand years of faith just because of the ACA, especially when the church as the 1st Amendment on its side?
Him: It’s obvious that the church never cares about death and suffering until it suits them. At that point, nothing stops the church.
Me: You’re entitled to your opinions about the Church, but it seems to me that, no matter how you look at it, the constitutional edge on this question lies with the Little Sisters and with Hobby Lobby.
At which point he gave up.
My point isn’t that I made the best arguments in the world. I know I didn’t. I also know, as I stated before, that I let a lot of his mean-spirited or uninformed statements go by without comment. Looking at what I said, though, I feel that I succeeded in my initial goal, which was to appear reasonable and to present to passive onlookers solid arguments that might give them food for thought if they dislike seeing the President beat up nuns.
Charles Krauthammer gets to the heart of the matter:
The violence to constitutional norms here [with the filibuster's destruction] consisted in how that change was executed. By brute force — a near party-line vote of 52-48. This was a disgraceful violation of more than two centuries of precedent. If a bare majority can change the fundamental rules that govern an institution, then there are no rules. Senate rules today are whatever the majority decides they are that morning.
What distinguishes an institution from a flash mob is that its rules endure. They can be changed, of course. But only by significant supermajorities. That’s why constitutional changes require two-thirds of both houses plus three-quarters of the states. If we could make constitutional changes by majority vote, there would be no Constitution.
As of today, the Senate effectively has no rules. Congratulations, Harry Reid. Finally, something you will be remembered for.
Read it all. I doubt you’ll find a better exposition of the profound damage the Obama administration is doing to the Constitution and to America.
The Constitution is very clear: Congress writes the laws; the President enforces them.
In light of Obama’s announcement today that he was unilaterally “improving” a law by ignoring its terms (i.e., the time limits contained within Obamacare), Veronique de Rugy asks a good question:
What authority does the president of the United States have to decide that he will or will not enforce some parts of the law that have become inconvenient for him politically or that are proven to have been a terrible idea?
There’s a simple answer to this excellent question. The limit to Obama’s authority lies in the Senate. The only thing that can stop a rogue president is impeachment — and a Senate with a Democrat majority will not allow conviction.
The real power to control Obama’s unlawful activities lies with the voters. So far, though, they’ve chosen not to exercise this power. Although Obama had been manifestly re-writing laws to suit his purpose before the 2012 election (e.g., immigration laws and Obamacare), the voters shrugged and kept the Senate in Democrat hands.
If voters in 2014 again return Democrats to the Senate in sufficient numbers to block impeachment, the voters have granted Obama the authority to ignore the limitations that the Constitution places upon him. It’s obviously not an express grant of authority, because the president is still violating the Constitution, but it’s an implicit grant of authority. Like the bribed police officer at the scene of a crime, voters will simply be looking the other way.
And speaking of 2014, there’s a Ricochet thread thinking about campaign slogans. This is the top suggestion: “If you don’t like your Democrat. you don’t have to keep him. Vote for ______.” I think it’s on the right track, but somehow a little unwieldy.
Given the record on which Obama and the Democrats will be running in 2014, what catchy slogans would you guys and gals suggest?
Normally, when I see the usual liberal talking points on my Facebook page, I try to ignore them lest I damage my blood pressure. Today, though, I got a wall of stupid. I’ve already written here about the profound ignorance that lies behind the progressive masses’ repeated claim that Obamacare is the “law of the land” and that the Republicans can do nothing. Aside from being grossly hypocritical coming from a party that refuses to enforce the nation’s immigration laws, it’s also ignorant. The House has the power of the purse precisely because, as a representative body with a two-year turnover, it is the best reflection of the will of the people at any given moment.
I probably could have tolerated that stupidity if I hadn’t also gotten a boatload of dumb about the gun shots fired in Washington, D.C. today. Early reports indicated that a driver who tried to slam into the White House was the shooter. Instantly, people went on their anti-gun tirades. Of course, when the dust settled, it turned out that the only shooters were the cops and that the person driving the car had a long history of mental illness. (Warning: site has autoplay video.) When I passed this information on to the Lefties claiming that guns were at the root of this, at least two of them made the identical risible argument: Even though the gal didn’t have a gun, she’s still a poster child for gun control, because she could have had a gun.
Honestly! How in the world can you counter that kind of monomania? It transcends reason and fact, and is an article of faith as profound as the Democrats’ historic belief that blacks are an inferior race who need either slavery or government welfare to function.
Given this type of irrational anti-gun lunacy, I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that a Phoenix-area police officer was asked not to wear his uniform when he picked his child up from elementary school, because parents were frightened by his gun.
I love Ace’s take on this story. The article that originally reported the story presented the school’s point of view:
A district spokeswoman told the station that “some parents” voiced concern about seeing a fully armed police officer on the school’s campus. The spokeswoman apologized that Urkov perhaps took the discussion the wrong way.
“It was not the intent of the principal to offend him,” the spokeswoman said.
To which Ace provided the only response possible:
Yes yes yes yes yes. He took it the wrong way. It’s on him. He didn’t understand your intent. He’s got the problem; not you.
Of course you don’t have a problem. Hysteria is not only natural, it’s preferable.
Shall we ban Cowboy Hats next? I mean: Cowboys. They carry six-shooters.
Unlike past shutdowns, which were indeed quibbles about this or that, the current shutdown is a big deal. The question posed is a fundamental one about the very nature of this nation: Is the federal government the servant or the master of the American people. Our Constitution says the former; sixty-years of federal expansion says the latter.
The WWII Memorial showdown in Washington makes concrete this abstract battle. It forces us to ask whether a government separate from and dominant over citizens owns that open air memorial, or whether a government of the people, by the people, and for the people has gotten too big for its britches and needs to be knocked down a peg.
There can be no doubt that what the House is doing is constitutional. Having said that, they are doing a terrible job of selling it, and that’s separate from the fact that the drive-by media is doing its best to tar and feather them. It’s a reminder of something I’ve learned in the 12 years since I crossed the Rubicon and changed political affiliations: Republicans are the party of smart ideologies and poor strategies. Democrats/Progressives, while their ideas may be disastrous, as is proven by every time and place in which they been put into effect, are master strategists. (And in that regard, Saul Alinsky is definitely their Sun Tzu.)
This problem is, in part, built into the system. To the extent there are still conservatives in the Republican party, their individualism makes them as easy to herd as angry cats. Democrats, on the other hand, find meaning in collective action. Even when their ideas are bad, their monolithic front gives them power.
UPDATE: James Taranto notes that, in this go-round, the usually tactically disciplined Democrat party has been unusually maladroit. Hubris or something else?
UPDATE 2: David Stockman sees also sees what’s happening as a determinative moment, but for different reasons.
My stock response to all those liberal Facebook friends who have insisted that the House is “unconstitutionally” holding Obamacare hostage, is that the Founders named it the “House of Representatives” and gave it the power of the purse for a reason.
The House’s members serve for much shorter terms than Supreme Court justices (life terms), executives (minimum 4 year terms) and Senators (minimum 6 year terms). This means that, if people are not pleased with the decisions made by those more entrenched bodies, they can make their displeasure known through the House, where new representatives can be rotated in every two years.
Making their displeasure known is precisely what the People did in 2010 and again in 2012, when they “shellacked” the House Democrats, which was a clear rebuff to Obama and his “care.” (It’s also entirely possible that Obama would also have been shellacked right out of office but for the IRS’s unconstitutional, illegal, unconscionable interference with free speech.)
In addition to the short term of office, which means the people can quickly punish or reward legislative conduct, the House of Representatives mirrors population dynamics. The Senate is fixed at two representatives per state, there’s only one president, and there are nine Supreme Court justices. The House, by contrast, is reconfigured every ten years to represent accurately the number of people in various population centers and deserts throughout the U.S.
The Founders deliberately gave the power of the purse to the federal branch most closely tied to American citizens, both in numbers and responsiveness: The House is meant to use that power to put the brakes on schemes cooked up by members of the other branches of government who are elected or appointed in numbers unrelated to the American population, and who have job security unrelated, or less related, to their immediate conduct. If the Founders were alive today, they’d say the roadblock inherent in the power of the purse is a feature, not a bug — and a pretty damned important feature too.
The above response came off the top of my head. If I had studied the Federalist papers recently, however, I could simply have quoted James Madison. one of the Constitution’s primary architects, writing in Federalist No. 58 (and a groveling h/t to Tom Elias, of The New Editor, for this brilliant find):
The House of Representatives cannot only refuse, but they alone can propose, the supplies requisite for the support of government. They, in a word, hold the purse that powerful instrument by which we behold, in the history of the British Constitution, an infant and humble representation of the people gradually enlarging the sphere of its activity and importance, and finally reducing, as far as it seems to have wished, all the overgrown prerogatives of the other branches of the government. This power over the purse may, in fact, be regarded as the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure. (Emphasis added.)
What the House is doing is entirely constitutional, and we conservatives should be doing our best to trumpet that fact. Moreover, given the federal takeover of the Lincoln Memorial, we should remind everyone that we live in a nation guaranteed “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” Unlike a monarchy, the federal government doesn’t own the properties it is denying us. Instead, we own the federal government. The government is merely a caretaker, and a pretty damn surly, ineffectual, greedy, and tyrannical one at that.
Nobody believes more strongly in defense attorneys than Progressives. This is ironic, because the whole point of defense counsel is to be a bulwark against Big Government. I was reminded of this fact when one of my children, out of the blue, wondered how defense attorneys could bear to represent their clients . . . the really bad ones, she hastened to add.
What an excellent question and one, I think, that goes to the heart of a citizen’s relationship to the state.
It all starts with the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the Bill of Rights:
Fifth: No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation
Sixth: In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence. (Emphasis added.)
These rights are inherent in each citizen. Being Mirandized doesn’t create the rights; it simply reminds citizens in stressful situations that they have these rights. Each of these rights has as its purpose protecting the citizen against the awesome majesty and power of the state. With the Constitution in place, gone are the days of trials by fire or drowning; lengthy imprisonments before a trial; repeated prosecutions; and coerced testimony. No matter what information we have about a criminal defendant’s conduct outside of the courtroom — no matter that a hundred people saw him stab the knife into someone’s heart — when he stands before the court, the law presumes him innocent and therefore entitled to every right that goes with that innocence.
In this context, a criminal defense attorney stands as the knowledgeable friend of an innocent man who would otherwise have to face alone everything that the state can bring to bear against him: its coercive power against witnesses; its wealth; its resources; its ownership of the judicial system; its familiarity with rules, law, and procedure; and, most importantly, its capacity to imprison or even to kill the person who stands before it. A criminal court is Big Government made personal. A criminal defense attorney is an honorable man (or woman) who stands as a necessary bulwark against potential tyranny. The attorney represents not only his (or her) client, but all citizens.
Progressives are rightfully fanatic about making sure that an accused person has counsel. At my law school, it was always the left of Left students who went on to become public defenders. Most of them burned out, of course, because absent the presumptive assumption of innocence, the people defense counsel work with are for the most part not very savory. Sure, there are the fools, the innocents, the dupes, the careless ones, the one-time, unlucky DUIs, and the victims, but for the most part, criminal defense work entails representing criminals.
Given their fealty to the notion that the government is an extremely dangerous entity, the power of which must always be constrained, it’s quite peculiar that Progressives are so enamored of Big Government. One would think that they, more than others who don’t routinely think about our justice system, recognize how monumental government is and how dangerous it can be without our zealously reminding it of its limits.