Have you noticed that when voters reject proposals or candidates favored by leftists, they are viciously denounced as ignoramuses or racists?
Take the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom. Appalled leftists on both sides of the pond condemned the British electorate. For example, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour reacting to the results said, “A lot of the Leave movements are led by the hard-right, very, very xenophobic, anti-immigrant, very populist, nationalist, white identity politics.”
Ms. Amanpour went on to mock voters as stupid for rejecting the sage advice of “independent analysts and allies of the U.K. and the scientists, and the academics and the economists and the business and even the sports people . . . [who] said ‘stay in the EU.’”
What happened to the fundamental liberal canon, tolerance and respect for opposing views?
It has been discarded in favor of an illiberalism that is intolerant and dedicated to silencing opposition.
The anti-democratic tactics utilized to achieve that end in the U.S. is the subject of a fascinating, yet frightening, new book by Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberly Strassel, "The Intimidation Game: How the Left is Silencing Free Speech."
In her work, Strassel exposes the left’s use of disclosure and campaign laws not to ensure freer elections but to silence, bully and scare off political opponents.
Ms. Strassel begins by noting that throughout the 20th Century, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that citizens who support public issue advocacy groups have the right to do so with a degree of anonymity.
In NAACP v. Alabama (1958), Justice John Marshall Harlan II, writing for the majority, said, “Effective advocacy of both public and private points of view, particularly controversial ones, is undeniably enhanced by group association” and such liberty could be wrecked by “compelled disclosure.”
The justice concluded that disclosure “may induce members to withdraw from the association and dissuade others from joining it because of fear of exposure of their beliefs.”
In Talley v. California (1960), the court once again blessed anonymous speech. “It is plain,” Justice Hugo Black wrote, “that anonymity has sometimes been assumed for the most constructive purposes.”
During the Civil Rights movement, liberals championed anonymous speech, but abandoned it after the Supreme Court in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010) struck down the plank in the Federal Campaign Finance law that “restricted corporations from endorsing candidates in broadcast ads in the run-up to elections.”
That decision drove the left crazy. After criticizing the court, liberal in chief Barack Obama, complained that groups with “harmless sounding names” like Americans for Prosperity (AFP) were spending millions to defeat Democrats and alleged undisclosed “foreign-controlled” entities were bankrolling these organizations.
Strassel argues that Obama’s ominous remarks sent a signal to his allies in government, particularly in the IRS, to go on the offensive.
The IRS got the message and made life miserable for right-wing 501(c)(4) applicants.
Lois Lerner, head of the IRS exempt organization, Strassel writes, “had absorbed the view that government needs to blow up anonymity, and then embarrass and intimidate conservative groups out of political participation.
All through 2010 and 2011, the IRS kept conservative groups in limbo. The next year was devoted to hounding them for information. In March 2013 . . . the first letter denying exception status to a conservative (c) (4) group.”
Lerner believed applicant denial would scare off many Tea Party groups. “One IRS prosecution,” she declared in an email, “would make an impact and wouldn’t feel so comfortable doing the stuff.”
While the American people will never know the full story of the IRS scandal, Strassel lays out what the public does know. Here’s a summary of her findings:
- We know the IRS rigged the process to single out conservative groups and to harass and delay their applications
- We know targeting was a crime
- We know top Obama officials “contemplated” ways to quiet opposition, including Justice Department criminal prosecutors
- We know Obama officials were briefed on IRS targeting
- And we know there was a cover up and that officials lied to Congress
The IRS is not the only government entity to employ scare tactics.
Strassel describes in riveting detail how Wisconsin prosecutors, various state Attorney’s General, the FEC, FCC, and SEC have harassed non-profits, corporations, big donors and trade associations that promote or support conservative causes.
And then there are the Democrats in Congress trying to suppress speech by altering the First Amendment. Fifty-four of them introduced a constitutional amendment, endorsed by Hillary Clinton, which reads “Congress and the states may regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections.”
To learn how “laws that were designed to keep the political class in check are being used to keep the American people in check,” read Kimberly Strassel’s engrossing book, "The Intimidation Game."
George J. Marlin, a former executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is the author of "The American Catholic Voter: Two Hundred Years of Political Impact." He also is a columnist for TheCatholicThing.org and the Long Island Business News. Read more reports from George J. Marlin — Click Here Now.
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