Closing Off the Revolutionary Road

By now you may have seen some buzz about a poll from Fairleigh Dickinson University reporting that 29% of Americans, and 44% of Republicans, think “in the next few years, an armed revolution may be necessary to protect our liberties.” It was taken in the context of understanding the sources of hard-core opposition to gun regulation measures, and sure seemed to indicate a subscription to Second Amendment absolutism that’s deeper than anything we’ve seen before. You can dismiss it for its sample size or its question order or its wording if you want, but I’m sorry: when nearly half the self-identified members of one of our two major political parties in any sample looks benignly on the possibility of “armed revolution”–particularly when it’s the supposedly conservative party–we’ve got real problems. If the actual percentage of Republicans thinking positively about armed revolution as a near-term necessity is 15%, we’ve got real problems.

I’ve preached for a good long while now that the absolute minimum the rest of us can expect from the leaders of the Republican Party and the conservative movement is to spend some serious time declaring anathemas against any talk on the Right of some “right to revolution,” particularly in the context of discussions of the possession of lethal weapons. Combine a “right to revolution” with the belief that most people voting for Barack Obama are baby-killing looters who are revolting against God’s very specific plan for America as laid right out there in the Declaration of Independence and the original Constitution, and you could get some unfortunate consequences, beginning, obviously, with a lot of people whose commitment to the rule of law and democratic procedures is perpetually conditional.

We need to get right in the faces of people blandly asserting a “right to revolution” and make sure they explicitly acknowledge that “armed revolution” is not some sort of Independence Day parade, but the very tangible enterprise of taking weapons and spilling the blood and taking the lives of police officers and members of the United States Armed Forces. Even if they continue to maintain that “right” as a remote, 1% contingency if America becomes a very different place, perhaps they’ll be less likely to talk as though it’s a lively proposition that might be triggered by next week’s health care regulations or next year’s adverse election results.

But our main target ought to be the politicians and pundits and bloggers that walk the revolutionary rhetorical road because it’s “entertaining” or it makes them feel all macho (like Grover Norquist swaggering around Washington with a “I’d rather be killing commies” button after one of his trips to Angola in the 1980s), or it’s just useful to have an audience or a political base mobilized to a state of near-violence by images of fire and smoke and iron and blood.

As I’ve observed on many occasions, you can only imagine how these self-appointed guardians of liberty would feel if casual talk of “armed revolution” became widespread on the left or among those people. There should not, cannot, be a double standard on this issue.

So please join me in calling on conservatives to cut this crap out and separate themselves from those who believe in vindicating the “original constitution” or defending their property rights or exalting their God or protecting the unborn via armed revolution. If William F. Buckley could “excommunicate” Robert Welch and the John Birch Society from the conservative movement back in the 1960s, today’s leaders on the Right can certainly do the same to those who not only share many of that Society’s views, but are willing to talk about implementing them by killing cops and soldiers.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.