When Paranoia Rebounds Into Persecution

This morning I was looking through an aggregator and saw a Townhall post by conservative wild man Kurt Schlichter and before I even read it pretty much guessed the drift: the godless liberals have broken all the rules, so come the counter-revolution, when Republicans are in charge, it’ll be time for some absolutely lawless hell-raising payback. News intervened, but I kept Schichter’s rant handy in case I needed it for posting purposes.

Turns out Martin Longman beat me to the punch at Ten Miles Square, and took Schichter’s threats as being more serious than one might imagine.

[T]he dividing line between joke and seriousness is hard to divine.

Partly, this is because of the aforementioned psychological projection involved here. We’re falsely accused of doing what his side has been doing for quite some time now. What he’s threatening doesn’t feel like much of a threat because we’re been living with it for so long now that we don’t see it as a change in the status quo. But it’s true that the conservatives have been somewhat constrained by rules and precedents and norms of behavior, and they can and will jettison those restraints the next time they are given the opportunity.

What we’re provided here in this column is the conservatives’ rationale for giving up on any hope of winning in light of rulings like King v. Burwell and Obergefell v. Hodges, as well as the loss of the Confederate Flag. They can’t win by playing by the rules, so they will accuse us of breaking them and use that as an excuse to exercise power the way they want to exercise it.

They just need one more chance.

Should we give it to them?

I guess you know the answer to that question.

Martin also has some fun with Schlichter’s suggestion that the godless liberals are in a position to ignore all the rules because, you know, they run the country. I don’t know if Schlichter is one of those Republicans who likes to brag about how his party controls absolutely everything other than the White House, but for the sake of his sanity, let’s hope not. Still, since the GOP controls both Houses of Congress and a majority of the Supreme Court Justices were appointed by Republican presidents, it’s a little strange to argue his “team” is powerless. And as Martin points out, if you want a “lawless” Supreme Court opinion, the eternal model is Bush v. Gore.

But what I’d really want to ask Schlichter if I were unfortunate enough to be in an actual dialogue with him is why he’s not proposing specific steps that would make all this lawless liberalism difficult if not impossible. He thinks it’s obvious liberals are using the IRS to go after conservatives; I’ve seen no evidence of it unless you’re talking about the alleged slow-walking of applications for a non-profit status no political organization, left or right, should enjoy. So how’s about supporting an abolition of that non-profit status for liberals and conservative political organizations alike? You could sign me up for a bipartisan proposal on that. Or how about authorizing criminal penalties up to a life sentence in the penitentiary for any pol who can be proved to have used the IRS to go after enemies? (“Proved” does not mean the idiot logic of assuming any tax prosecution against any self-identified conservative is politically motivated). I’d be all for that. And since the Obama administration’s prosecutorial guidelines for setting priorities among undocumented people are supposedly the end of the world, how’s about proposing appropriations sufficient to deport ’em all? I’m not on board for that, but I’d respect the consistency involved.

I guess what I’m saying, to use a legal term, is that conservatives have not exhausted the remedies available for stopping objectionable policies before they propose a fascist dictatorship, which is pretty much what Schlichter is threatening, jocularly or seriously.

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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.