In pursuit of the ever-popular Beltway sport of False Equivalence, it’s common to see today’s left-bent resistance to Donald Trump compared to right-wing extremist movements of the recent past, from the tea party movement to precincts further off in the fever swamps. This sort of talk is often the product of laziness or malice. But now and then something happens that makes left-right parallels unavoidable and accurate. One such incident, surprisingly, comes from the loose lips of a member of Congress, New York’s Tom Suozzi. According to the New York Post, the Nassau County Democrat had this to say about the remedies available to deal with Donald J. Trump during a town hall meeting last week:
“It’s really a matter of putting public pressure on the president,” Suozzi said in a newly released video of the March 12 talk in Huntington. “This is where the Second Amendment comes in, quite frankly, because you know, what if the president was to ignore the courts? What would you do? What would we do?”
A listener then blurts out, “What’s the Second Amendment?”
The left-leaning Democrat says, “The Second Amendment is the right to bear arms.
First time I read about this, I thought maybe Suozzi was joking. Apparently not.
Suozzi political adviser Kim Devlin denied the pol was “advocating for an armed insurrection.”
But the Suozzi campaign at the same time seemed to double down on the comments, as they forwarded a line penned by Thomas Jefferson that called for armed resistance.
“What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance. Let them take arms,” the quote said.
The idea that the Second Amendment is intended to preserve the right of the people to undertake a violent revolution against some present or future “tyrannical” government is dangerously common on the political right. It’s usually articulated by those who oppose any firearm regulations whatsoever. But at a deeper level, the availability of
“Second Amendment remedies” is the foundation stone of the militia movement, and represents a not-very-subtle threat from anti-democratic (not to mention anti-Democratic) activists of all sorts that there are rights — ranging from property rights to the so-called right to life of the unborn — that no popular majority will be allowed to violate perpetually without provoking righteous violence. This Second
Amendment–based right of revolution was embraced by 2016 Republican presidential candidates Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, and Mike Huckabee.
This sort of loose talk has largely been accepted as part of conventional conservative politics, though Donald Trump did raise some eyebrows during the 2016 general election by hinting that he might share it:
Repeating his contention that Mrs. Clinton wanted to abolish the right to bear arms, Mr. Trump warned at a rally here that it would be “a horrible day” if Mrs. Clinton were elected and got to appoint a tiebreaking Supreme Court justice.
“If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks,” Mr. Trump said, as the crowd began to boo. He quickly added: “Although the Second Amendment people — maybe there is, I don’t know.”
So Suozzi is in some pretty strange company in adopting the Second Amendment remedies meme, including, perhaps, the man whose threats to the Constitution apparently pushed him in this direction in the first place.
I’m sure Suozzi will issue a “clarification” before the sun sets tonight. But his remarks should serve as an opportunity for left-of-center folk to swear off similar thinking once and for all. There are few things more frightening than the possibility that participants in today’s hyperpolarized partisan politics will all get into the habit of threatening to take up shooting irons to redress the imperfections of our political system. Progressives would be well-advised to leave this sort of extremist reasoning to the gun nuts and the wing nuts.