Some time back, Rush Limbaugh asserted that Barack Obama can’t be impeached because he’s America’s first black President. I experienced what I mistook for a visceral reaction
(one rooted in emotion rather than logical reasoning) against that assertion. All my life, I’ve done my best to resist the notion that “victim status” justifies applying different standards to black Americans when it came to judging their performance.
I resisted it because the people presumed to benefit from actions or policies based on this notion are in fact doomed to live under a cloud that obscures and distracts from their merits. The bigot’s outspoken assertions of inferiority can be disproved by superior performance. But whispered assertions of unjust favoritism are like an invisible, odorless poison gas. They create an atmosphere in which hard work unaccountably produces less and less forward motion.
More importantly, nobody is doing you a favor if such a double standard is applied to your performance in the course of education and training. At best, their “favoritism” sets you up for a career in mediocrity. At worst, it dooms you to abject failure. And you may have greater difficulty dealing with that failure because you permit yourself to believe that racism is the reason your career lags behind that of others with “credentials” similar to your own.
But when it comes to the issue of impeachment, the evil effect of letting victim status interfere with our standard for judging public officials goes beyond individual damage or unfairness, especially when it comes to the particular situation of Barack Obama. He qualifies for victim status on account of his race. But race is an accident of birth. This means that Rush Limbaugh is saying that Obama can’t be impeached on account of the race into which he was born.
Obama’s victim status derives from the experience of a people oppressed by injustices based ultimately on others’ assertions of superiority by birth. How absurdly ironic that it should be used to restore, in effect, the notion of supreme executive power exempted from constitutional accountability on account of a status derived from birth.
If Obama can’t be impeached on account of his birth, then he cannot be called to account for his egregious violations of the Constitution because of his birth. It’s acceptable to talk about impeaching his appointees, like Eric Holder, but Obama is somehow exempt from the same accountability. In effect, this gives him the privileged status enjoyed by kings during the late, and properly unlamented, era of absolute monarchy. “The king can do no wrong” was a principle of absolutism. The notion that a sitting President can’t be impeached leaves us to cope with the effect of that principle, even if, for the moment, it is left unsaid.
This is the most insidiously harmful thing about what Limbaugh wants us to accept. We are to go from being governed by a written constitution that constrains government power, to being constrained by a legally unspoken principle that leaves the executive power of government entirely unaccountable, and therefore entirely unconstrained. In principle, this isn’t just the demise of our written constitution. It’s a return to the primitive era of absolute despotism, such as prevailed in the days before people recognized the rule of reason that requires a law to be promulgated (i.e., spoken aloud, communicated) or else it is no law.
The terms “lawless” and “lawlessness” have become the buzzwords of the very same GOP hucksters who refuse to do what’s necessary to gather the nation’s political will in order to impeach and remove Obama and his collaborators. Those like Rush Limbaugh who pretend that Obama can’t be impeached because of his race, i.e., an accident of birth, are in fact telling us that we have no choice but to accept this lawlessness. Assuming that the Constitution’s provisions are respected, we have almost two years of lawlessness to go. But if lawlessness has overturned law, what makes these people think the provisions of law that are supposed to bring this era to an end have not also been overthrown?
Ponder that question honestly enough, and you realize that the answer entirely depends on a calculation of relative force, which is all that matters when the law is silenced and overthrown. At such times, “Inter armes silent leges” (under arms the laws are silent) is less an observation than a warning: When the laws fall silent, arms are the rule.
This brings to mind the ongoing confrontation over the use of Federal lands in Nevada. For the moment, the prospect of armed confrontation has subsided. But, as Nevada Sen. Reid’s ominous blustering portends, the Obama faction is just regrouping. An object lesson is in the making, one intended to impress Americans with the fact that Obama’s bowing servility, his penchant for supple accommodation, is reserved for enemies of the American people. What he has for Americans themselves, who forcefully resist his lawlessness, is an armed response, tailored to crush their will. The measures taken at the Bundy Ranch thus far are just part of the tailoring process.
This brings to mind the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes’s observation about the nature of war:
For as the nature of foul weather lies not in a shower or two of rain, but in an inclination thereto of many days together; so the nature of war consists not in actual fighting, but in the known disposition thereto during all the time there is no assurance to the contrary.
When he was campaigning for office, Obama proclaimed his interest in a national police force as large and well equipped as the armed forces intended for the nation’s defense against foreign foes. Since taking office, he has established armed forces attached to key domestic agencies. He has systematically sought to transform state and local police forces into auxiliaries of the U.S. government, armed to the teeth for all-out war.
All this is evidence of a settled, persistent disposition to make war on Americans. The measures taken during the Bundy Ranch confrontation simply carry that disposition into action. In this respect, the war to overthrow constitutional self-government in the United States is already well advanced. It remains, to a large extent, a war of maneuver. This leaves ignorant or thoughtless people free to pretend that it is not ongoing. But ambitious elitists, steeped in the precepts of Machiavelli and Sun Tzu, know that most wars are won or lost before ever the first shot has been fired.
Their hope is to overthrow constitutional self-government with little or no actual fighting. America’s hope is to thwart their warlike maneuvers before they can be completed. Their hope is to silence the law that creates a battlefield on which the people hold a commanding position. America’s hope is to focus on the Constitution, so that the American people can use the commanding position it provides for them to retake the government that is supposed to represent their will. If Americans have the sense and common will to make proper use of their votes, before and during the 2014 elections, those votes can be the voice that recalls their nation to the rule of law.
This is the strategic purpose of the effort under way in the Pledge To Impeach movement. Have you taken the pledge? If not, take a moment to consider it by clicking the link below.