Collective Guilt and the New Witch Hunt

American Conservative, January 15, 2021

Collective Guilt and the New Witch Hunt

Hatred is at an all-time high in Washington. Will Congress step in to become the arbiters of truth?

“Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?” was the question used in congressional hearings in the 1950s in what was portrayed as a witch hunt against leftists that blighted American freedom of speech. A new witch hunt is sweeping Washington, Silicon Valley, and much of the media based on the following question: “Do you currently have any doubts or have you ever written or said anything disparaging the vote counts of the 2020 presidential election?”

Anyone who questions the final vote of that election is now literally being derided as a traitor. Regardless of 65 million mail-in ballots (for which fraud is “vastly more prevalent,” according to the New York Times), regardless of the last minute changes in election procedures in key swing states, and regardless of controversies about computer voting software, anyone who does not attest to the final proclaimed vote count  is finding themselves forever damned – or at least that is the intent of Democratic activists and social media companies.

The definition of treason has been vastly expanded in the past weeks to include members of Congress who filed a lawful challenge against the 2020 electoral tally. Even though Democrats vigorously challenged Republican presidential victories in 2000, 2004, and 2016 (Nancy Pelosi declared in May 2017, “Our [2016] election was hijacked… Congress has a duty to #ProtectOurDemocracy”), any challenges to last November’s results suddenly became intolerable. Forty-eight Democratic members of Congress have co-sponsored a resolution calling for expelling potentially more than a hundred Republican lawmakers who pledged to object to certifying the 2020 election results. The resolution claims that those Republican lawmakers are guilty of violating the 14th Amendment’s provision prohibiting federal officeholders from having “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the [United States], or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”

Expelling all those members of Congress would disenfranchise all the voters in those states and congressional districts in the name of punishing anyone who raised questions about the national vote count. While Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tx) maintained that America needed healing, she also declared that “accountability comes before healing.” [Pg. 136 of transcript]

Both before and after the 2020 election, the dominant media narrative endlessly recited that voter fraud was a myth. Facebook earlier this week deleted all posts that included the phrase “Stop the Steal.” Will a long history of electoral frauds by Tammany Hall and other political racketeers be expunged like a bunch of Confederate monuments toppled in the middle of the night? After the backlash to challenges to the 2020 election, must Americans now unquestioningly accept the vote count in every state, county, and dog patch in every election? Why is it now impious to suspect that politicians who brazenly lie on the campaign trail and in office would also connive to illicitly win elections?

On top of the new thought prohibitions, anyone who criticized or protested the election results is now collectively guilty for any violence that occurred during the January 6 clash between Trump supporters and police at the U.S. Capitol. After a policeman suffered fatal injuries from that during the melee, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), the House Democratic Caucus chair, declared on Tuesday, “Blood is on the hands of every single House Republican sycophant. Who perpetrated the big lie. That Trump won the election.” [Sentence breaks accurate for the tweet.]

Most Americans support vigorous prosecution for the individuals who violently attacked police during that clash but that is not enough for many Democrats or Justice Department officials. They seek harsh punishments for the hundreds if not thousands of people who walked into open doors at the Capitol and did no violence prior to peacefully exiting the building.

On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer demanded, “Any of those who were inside the Capitol should not be able to fly and should be placed on the No Fly list” by the FBI and TSA. The Supreme Court ruled in 1999 that the “‘constitutional right to travel from one State to another’ is firmly embedded in our jurisprudence.” But Schumer now wants to use the No Fly list to nullify the rights of people based on their political activism or political associations, not on any actual threat they pose to aviation safety.

Schumer wants to see people banned not after a conviction in federal court but merely because they appear in photos or videos in the wrong place at the wrong time. Federal officials make it almost impossible to get one’s name removed from the No Fly list, often tormenting citizens who are guilty of nothing more than having a name resembling a name suspected sometime by some bureaucrat. In 2005, a Stanford University graduate student learned that she was on the No Fly list when she was handcuffed and locked up overnight instead of being permitted to travel. The FBI refused to disclose why she was on that list, and Attorney General Eric Holder attested that the reason her case was a “state secret” was not an “administrative error” or to “prevent embarrassment.” A federal judge in 2014 exposed Holder’s falsehood when he revealed that the No Fly listing was the result of an FBI clerical error. But most of the folks who kept within the rope lines at the Capitol during last week’s brouhaha probably can’t afford the equivalent of $3 million in legal fees necessary to end federal travel restrictions on that graduate student.

Some politicians are talking as if anyone who broke a window on a federal building should be found guilty of attempting to overthrow the government. Scores of protestors have already been charged with “unlawful entry” for last week’s protest. Federal prosecutors will likely seek to pile on charges atop that piddling charge to browbeat guilty pleas from scores if not hundreds of people who cannot afford thousands of dollars of legal fees to prove their innocence. Will the Justice Department seek to hold any demonstrator legally liable for any of the violence at the scene? Unfortunately, the feds have a handy club in the Patriot Act’s “domestic terrorism” offense, defined as violent or threatening private actions intended “to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion.” It requires only a few scuffles at a rally to transform a protest group into a terrorist entity—even if the scuffles are started by undercover government agent provocateurs. American Conservative online editor J. Arthur Bloom has already raised questions about the role of federal informants in Wednesday’s protest. Even people who did not attend the rally where violence broke out could face legal perils from the feds if charged with “material support” (i.e., donations) to an organization later charged with terrorist offenses.

Democratic legislators will exploit the outrage they have fanned in the past week to seek new laws that further muzzle their critics and average Americans. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) declared on Tuesday, “We’re going to have to figure out we rein our media environment so that you can’t just spew misinformation and disinformation.” AOC said that people must be prevented from “saying things that are false.” The progressive icon has not yet revealed the secret codicil she discovered in the First Amendment entitling Congress to be Truth Czars. But, according to her, a cure must be administered to people who “drank the poison of white supremacy.” AOC also declared, “The only way our country is going to heal is through the actual liberation of southern states.” She didn’t specify if she favored the type of military dictatorship that was ended only by a historic compromise after the fraud-ridden 1876 presidential election. Plenty of Democratic members of Congress may agree with CNN’s Don Lemon, who declared yesterday that anyone who voted for Trump is guilty of siding with Nazis and the Klan.

As the Trump era ignominiously ends with a second impeachment, hatred is at high tide in Washington. Democrats appear to believe that they can restore faith in elections by demonizing any criticism of officially promulgated vote totals. But election results are not handed down from Mt. Sinai, and precedents now being established could haunt elections for decades to come.

James Bovard is the author of Lost RightsAttention Deficit Democracy, and Public Policy Hooligan. He is also a USA Today columnist. Follow him on Twitter @JimBovard.


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One Response to Collective Guilt and the New Witch Hunt

  1. Mermatan January 17, 2021 at 9:42 pm #

    Well put Jim

    Thank you