“I never predict. I just look out the window and see what is visible – but not yet seen.” –Peter Drucker
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick decided to join Joe Klein and up the ante on the current campaign of “Shut Up!” described by Professor Klavan by alleging that Republicans’ opposition to President Obama’s agenda “is almost at the level of sedition.”
Of course, when explaining his remarks after the forum, Patrick said the following:
“I think that the number of people in the Grand Old Party who seem to be absolutely committed to saying ‘no,’ whenever he says ‘yes,’ no matter what it is, even if it’s an idea that they came up with, is just extraordinary,” the governor told reporters after the forum.
And about the “sedition” remark?
“That was a rhetorical flourish,” Patrick said.
Now, normally, I would take this as evidence of why he is in politics rather than private practice, those who can vs. those who can’t, and whatnot, but this isn’t the first time we have heard a prominent Democrat suggesting criminal penalties for Constitutionally protected opposition. Once is an anomaly, twice is a trend. It doesn’t surprise me. The Left has been telling those who oppose them to “Shut Up!” for years, first with their own voices, then with the voices of their “experts”, and now that their “authority” is called into question for spouting increasingly inane defenses and justifications, they had to up the ante.
When Joe Klein offered up his insightful analysis which raised the spectre of sedition for people who dare criticise a President who speaks without knowledge and apologizes without cause, I was willing to shrug it off. Merely another idiot demonstrating how a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. When a sitting governor starts saying it, I had to analyze it. And the analysis says that this is the latest round of “Shut Up!”, the step of intimidation when the rabble refuse to be cowed by those who fancy themselves the intellectual betters of those to be silenced, and in Patrick’s case, it is all the more shameful, as he is an attorney and should, by training, choose his words carefully. Such a use of the word would rest outside of the grounds of proper conduct, and be immediately objected to in Court.
But more importantly, we cannot discount the reasoning for the use of the word and the prevarication about the actual act. Both Klein and Patrick talked about those evil opposition voices almost being seditious. It isn’t true, of course, as sedition, like most legal terms, has a precise meaning. From West’s Encyclopedia of American Law:
Sedition is the crime of revolting or inciting revolt against government. However, because of the broad protection of free speech under the First Amendment, prosecutions for sedition are rare. Nevertheless, sedition remains a crime in the United States under 18 U.S.C.A. § 2384 (1948), a federal statute that punishes seditious conspiracy, and 18 U.S.C.A. § 2385 (1948), which outlaws advocating the overthrow of the federal government by force. Generally, a person may be punished for sedition only when he or she makes statements that create a clear and present danger to rights that the government may lawfully protect (Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47, 39 S. Ct. 247, 63 L. Ed. 470 ).
Thus, legal speaking, one commits sedition when one advocates the overthrow of the federal government by force. As hard as Joe Klein may wish it to be true, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin have never said anything that would rise to the technical level of sedition, and no matter how much congressional Republicans refuse to lend their names to bad Democratic legislation so that the guilty parties can point to the desired collaboration and cry “Bipartisanship!”, it simply doesn’t meet the technical definition of sedition. And why the emphasis on the technical definition of sedition? Because such a law cannot easily be reconciled with either the First Amendment or our history. “Congress shall make no law…” is indeed a pretty high hurdle, and I’m inclined to believe the proponents of that prohibition meant it. It should also be noted that our nation’s charter was clear about the right to overthrow a government which had overstepped its bounds:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
In almost every sedition case prosecuted in recent memory, a successful conviction comes only with overt acts in furtherance against the United States of America. That last little bit is important too, because both Klein and Patrick have raised their howling alarms with reference to resistance to the President and his policies, not the overthrow of the United States government. Again, this isn’t surprising, as most leftists are more authoritarian than they would like to admit (it is hard to impose Utopia when there is an oppostion with which you must share power), and they clearly have pinned all their dreams on the cypher masquerading as a leader, and they are willing to do and say anything to maintain his fading prestige.
Of course, this holds a challenge for us, as well. We can’t let the clumsy smear go unanswered. And when people who have no excuse to say something so demonstrably false, it is up to us to speak up, and do our best to instill the speakers with a sense of shame that they obviously lack. After Governor Patrick’s remarks, I can now say that I’m even less impressed with the quality of public servant that the Harvard Law School is foisting upon us these days. First a President of Law Review that apparently wrote no article for the publication, and now a former Assistant Attorney General who uses falsehoods as “rhetorical flourishes”.
I think the Dems should show a great deal more caution, lest they end up reaping what they sow.
I think I can see November from my house.