What we have to fear . . .

What will America look like if Joe Biden wins the election November 3rd and the Democrats take control of the U.S. Senate?  Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi and Kamala Harris have promised measures so drastic that they should strike fear in the hearts of Americans who care about democracy and the protections afforded individuals in the U.S. Constitution.

A Democrat Senate could grant statehood to the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, which would add four Senators, all of whom presumably would be Democrats. This step would not only result in several immediate catastrophes but would throw any balance between the two parties into the gutter. One party states are one step away from into one-party dictatorships.

It would mean the end to the Electoral College, a system that protects the residents of the less populous states from majority large state domination in all future elections. It would also likely result in the Democrats packing the Supreme Court with a sufficient number of new justices to guarantee none of their policies would be overturned by the Court.

Further, the totalitarian impulses of the Democrat Party would be institutionalized reducing freedoms of the First Amendment to the Constitution, such that government would have the power to restrain unpopular speech and religious practices if they conflict with government authority. These may seem far-fetched, but let me assure you they are not. All have come before the Supreme Court and were one vote away from being entrenched by the Court. Examples of governors implementing such restrictions during the pandemic should demonstrate how close we are as a nation to losing the freedoms that have stood us in good stead for 234 years.

On the other side, stands Donald Trump who is accused of being a racist, a Nazi, a liar, and a million other negatives, but accusations are all the Democrats and the media have going for them. His policies have won over millions of adherents by achieving a great economy prior to the arrival of the pandemic and providing benefits and services to Blacks, Hispanics, women, the elderly and infirm. If re-elected he will stand up to the Democrats’ wet dreams of unbridled power. That’s the choice Americans face. That’s the decision you must make on November 3rd.

The Case for Democracy: A Book Review

Natan Sharansky, The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny & Terror, Pubic Affairs, 2006.

Books on world politics typically have a very short half-life; their relevance quickly diminishes as events overtake their analysis. That, however, is not the case for Natan Sharansky’s 2004 book, The Case for Democracy. In fact, this small book is just as relevant today as when it first appeared in print.

In addition to allowing Sharansky to outline his theory of democracy, The Case for Democracy is a memoir and a history of major world events. Drawing on his personal experience as a political prisoner in the Soviet Union as well as having served in two Israeli cabinets, Sharansky lays out in clear prose the distinction between free and fear societies and how championing democratic reforms can be used to advance the cause of human rights in repressive nations.

In addition to political theory, Sharansky provides useful criteria for judging whether a country is democratic as well as when a criticism of Israel is actually anti-Semitism in disguise.

What Constitutes a Free Society?

His first item of business is to clarify what constitutes a free society and why holding elections is not an adequate measure of whether a society is free. Without the four freedoms––speech, religion, assembly, and press––elections are meaningless. Nor does adding “democratic republic” to the name of one’s country make a society democratic or free.

Sharansky also challenges the political theory behind much of Western foreign policy since World War Two. In case after case, Western leaders have made deals with dictators, claiming that the stability they provided was more important than promoting the rights of those countries’ citizens. Followers of the “realistic,” or Kissinger, school of international relations typically distrust the people of countries ruled by autocrats and dictators. They claim pressuring those rulers to grant freedoms to their citizens will only destabilize those countries and could lead to worse conditions.

Sharansky takes the opposite view. He promotes the notion that all people––including those who have never experienced democracy––yearn for freedom and that the main reason the citizens of countries ruled by dictators aren’t campaigning for their rights is that they can’t. To voice dissent or call for change is a death sentence in many parts of the world. Few people of repressive nations feel free to speak out unless the leaders of the Western nations––primarily the United States––show they are paying attention and support their freedom movement. Failure to do so––such as when President Obama failed to support the protests against Iran’s autocratic regime––is a missed opportunity to help foster democratic reforms.

Realist School Corollary: Appeasement by any other Name

There’s a corollary to the realists’ thesis that the failure of people to speak out for change is because they like what they have and that to pressure those nations to grant democratic rights will only create chaos and possibly open conflict. Proponents of that school of thought argue that by dealing with dictators the West gives them room to reform their societies from the top. That is the rationale behind providing voting rights to every member of the United Nations even when they openly violate the membership vow to grant human rights to their citizens. That theory of reform failed miserably in practice. After seventy years, the autocratic members of the United Nations have shown little inclination to provide human and democratic rights to their citizens.

History as Teacher: The Soviet Union and Israel

The middle chapters of The Case for Democracy recount the experiential basis for Sharansky’s view that promoting democratic rights is the best weapon the free world has against countries that oppress their citizens and engage in hostile behavior towards other countries.

He reviews how an unheralded provision of the 1975 Helsinki Agreement, which the Soviet Union signed because they needed technological and financial aide from the West to shore up their crumbling economy, required signer countries to uphold the basic human rights of their own peoples. That provision enabled proponents of freedom to rally behind Soviet dissidents. Sharansky reports when that link in the chain of oppression was removed, the volume of internal opposition increased exponentially leading in fifteen years to the downfall of the Soviet system.

The main lesson here is that dictatorships do not reform themselves willingly. Sharansky argues that societies that depend on fear for their survival need external enemies in order to justify repressive measures at home. Without external enemies the logic of internal suppression collapses. Citizens see that people in other lands have rights and ask why not us. Many realists, unfortunately, refuse to learn the lesson of the Soviet Union. As an indication of how far off course that outlook can take people, Sharansky quotes a U.S. state department official as referring to Iran as a democracy. No wonder the Obama administration thought Iran could be a reliable and honest partner to a nuclear deal.

Israel Also Failed to Learn the Lesson

Sharansky recounts how the Israeli government has failed over and over to put into practice the lesson learned from Helsinki. Israel’s biggest mistake was signing the 1993 agreement with Yasser Arafat in Oslo that not only failed to achieve peace, but also enabled Arafat to escalate his terrorist war against Israel. Sadly, prime minister after prime minister has mistakenly assumed they could trust Arafat and his successor Mahmud Abbas. Israeli prime ministers too often listened to U.S. presidents who preached the notion that dealing with the enemy you know is better than the one who might replace him. The one exception was George W. Bush’s standing up to Arafat in 2002 enunciating a statement of democratic principles that was later undermined by the realists in Washington and Tel Aviv.

History Lessons Not Known

What’s remarkable to me on a personal level is how little I knew of the history Sharansky relates despite the fact that I’ve been a moderately alert follower of world affairs since my college years. That suggests the American people are also largely uninformed about these events and about the crushing logic of Sharansky’s thesis that the ONLY way to defeat a country like the Soviet Union or its contemporary equivalents short of waging war is to require that they institute human rights reforms in order to partake in the benefits free societies offer the citizens of the world.

Thus, I believe U.S. must assert that products produced by slave or child labor cannot be part of any trade deals and must be embargoed. Further, trade deals should not be made with countries that repress religious or political dissidents. That would include China and most Muslim nations. To ignore slavery and the repression of religious and human rights strengthens dictatorships and weakens the West.

Here many readers will interject the realists’ arguments despite the fact that they not only failed to advance freedom in totalitarian countries, but also undermined the standing of the U.S. and other Western nations in the eyes of oppressed peoples. To cave to murderers like Yasser Arafat tells would-be protesters that their lives may be subjected to a trade to gain stability. The Neville Chamberlain story is not a one-time tragedy, but has been repeated over and over.

Realist theorists might also argue Moslem countries are different from the rest of the world in that there’s no indication that the average person desires freedom. Sharansky refutes that theory by listing individuals he has met and corresponded with who desire democratic change. He also could have cited cases of moderate Arabs murdered by the PLO for working with Israel, or the stories of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali refugee who has spoken out on female genital mutilation and other issues despite efforts to shut her up and Mosab Hassan Yousef, a Palestinian whose father was one of Hamas’ founders and who became a Christian and a double-agent for Israel. Both have published easily accessible books.

The Case for Democracy appeared after Sharansky’s autobiography, Fear No Evil (1988), and preceded his long essay Defending Identity (2008). All three are essential reading. A fourth book, entitled Never Alone, is due out September 1, 2020. All can be read by teenagers and young adults who are growing up in a world where distorting the past is the means to controlling the present. People who care about world peace and democratic rights should take the time to read all four.

Is the problem white supremacy?

If you ask protesters what justifies their anger, most will tell you what happened to George Floyd is not unique––meaning a black man being killed by a white police officer, and that if the person being arrested was white, the officer would have acted differently.

That response is both right and wrong. It’s wrong in that Officer Chauvin has an extensive record of involvement in incidents that had to be investigated for behavior outside what is required of a member of the Minnesota Police Department, some of them involving whites. So in one sense the problem was this one officer and a system that failed to remove him from the force years ago.

Yet, it’s also true that there have been too many instances of white police officers engaging in behavior that caused serious injury or death to blacks without sufficient justification. Although the number of such incidents has declined precipitously in the past four decades, any such action that cannot be justified by circumstances, such as strong belief the person being arrested has a weapon and intends to use it, is unacceptable. The question is how we deal with those incidents. Is rioting––violence against police officers, theft and property destruction appropriate or justified? I think not.

Yet some will suggest the problem is not a few “bad” cops or improper or insufficient training; rather they claim American society is structurally organized to the disadvantage of black people––that whites enjoy racial privilege and therefore America is a white supremacist society.

This accusation cannot be backed by the numbers. Any attempt to do so must run up against data that shows that status of black Americans has risen from the lows of the first half of the 20th century under the separate and unequal Jim Crow system to to full legal equality with whites. Compare the number of black doctors, lawyers, police chiefs, school superintendents and principals, college presidents, corporation executives, and media personalities, etc. with any point in the past to 2020. Compare the status of black women in America in 1965 or 1995 to the present and you’ll see extraordinary progress. Compare the number of blacks enrolled in America’s colleges to any point in the past. Are there still blacks living in poverty? Yes, but that’s true for whites and Hispanics as well. Poverty is primary a class, not a racial, problem.

So why do some people think white supremacy is a dominant characteristic of American society? The source of the accusation is a Left professorate that has fostered this notion which has been picked up by the mainstream media and the Democrat Party. Faculty at elite colleges have for the past forty years marshaled selective incidents and partial data to justify this thesis which elevates them at the expense of their students. To be a militant on campus is the highest status a black or minority professor can achieve. In fact, if one is not militant, one is suspect and in danger of not getting tenure or promoted.

Why, you may ask, has the mainstream media bought into this thesis? The media plays to a left-leaning audience as a reflection of the composition of the reporting and editing staff. To be sympathetic to the poor, discriminated against and disadvantaged, makes these people feel good about themselves. It helps them ignore the hypocrisy of their privilege as members of a part of society that holds itself above criticism. While not condoning violence, the media’s desire to blame Donald Trump for everything they perceive to be wrong with America shows they will not condemn those protesters who go too far.

And what about the Democrat Party: why have they bought into the white supremacy argument? The answer is obvious. To be the champion today of the victims of white America enables Democrat candidates to gloss over the fact that their Party has been in control of our major cities as well as the states with the highest black population for the past 70-80 years. It is their party that ought to be held responsible for any lack of progress in those communities. So if police departments aren’t getting rid of people like George Floyd’s murderer, black people ought to look to the elected officials in those cities and hold them responsible.

There are a tiny number of whites who believe they belong to a superior race––a concept that is so vapid and without merit that any thinking American should know it could only be held by a few deranged individuals. The vast majority of white Americans seek justice and equality for all Americans. To suggest otherwise requires the accuser to identify laws and/or policies that advantage one race over another.

Americans must continue to work to live up to the ideals of the founding fathers who believed all men (and women) are equal and deserved to be treated that way. We’ve come a long way, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t more to that needs our attention. Let the discussion continue so that we can all share our views and identify problems that need to be addressed, but let’s also take a moment to glory in the progress. For without recognizing success, future progress will never be enough.

 

Permission to Carry a Gun May Not Be Granted in Maryland

Has the future of gun ownership arrived? In Maryland, a Handgun Permit Review Board  denied the application of a Washington, D.C. resident to be able to carry a handgun when he travels into Maryland. They rejected his rationale that he is in potential danger of hostile encounters due to the fact that he is a Republican congressional staffer.

Did you know that you need a special permit in Maryland if you wish to carry a gun you legally possess outside your home? To do so, you must file an application with the State Police, pass a criminal background check, take a handgun-training course, and provide a “good and substantial reason” why the application should be approved.

The D.C. resident’s application was denied, as was his appeal. The Handgun Review Board ruled that he provided no evidence of threats that would justify approval. That is despite recent attacks on Republicans, including the shooting at the Republicans softball practice that nearly killed Congressman Steve Scalise. The applicant is now in front of the Maryland Court of Special Appeals hoping for a reversal of the Review Board’s decision.

Not to get too legalistic here, but you should know that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled that Maryland has the right to require this justification procedure. Perhaps they failed to consider that an applicant’s politics might one day become one of the criteria for denial. Are we looking at a future where members of only one party will be granted carry rights? That’s not a preposterous possibility given that the state Review Board is currently made up of political appointees. But should such a procedure even exist?

The D.C. applicant, who is being represented by a group entitled Maryland Shall Issue (www.marylandshallissue.org), wants the state court to grant the application. While the state court can do so, it cannot overturn the 4th Circuit. That can only be done by the U.S.Supreme Court, which is where this and similar cases are heading.

The president of Maryland Shall Issue rightfully argues that the U.S. Constitution provides equal rights to all of its citizens––not just members of a special class. How the Supreme Court will rule will determine whether states can decide which citizens who legally possess handguns are permitted to carry them for protection outside their homes and which may not. Stay tuned.