Attorney General William Barr noted America’s slide toward despotism during remarks at the National Religious Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, Wednesday. He highlighted changes in three institutional “bulwarks” that have long preserved liberty: “religion, the decentralization of government power, and the free press.”
Most notable was Barr’s calling out of the “remarkably monolithic” press as a vehicle for pushing Americans toward a secular progressive program and a “soft despotism,” wherein everyone is converted “into 25-year-olds living in the government’s basement, focusing our energies on obtaining a larger allowance rather than getting a job and moving out.” Barr described this progressive dream as a use of the “public purse to … build a permanent constituency of supporters who are also dependents.”
Barr noted the press, having become less like objective journalists and more like political activists, maintains massive influence in directing public opinion to “mobilize a majority” toward progressive goals.
When the media becomes a viewpoint monolith, “Not only does it become easier for the press to mobilize a majority, but the mobilized majority becomes more powerful and overweening with the press as its ally,” Barr said. “This is not a positive cycle, and I think it is fair to say that it puts the press’ role as a breakwater for the tyranny of the majority in jeopardy.”
The relationship among journalists, politicians, and the American people has shifted since 2016 and the run-up to Donald Trump’s presidential election. The president has repeatedly referred to the press as the “enemy of the people” producing “fake news,” for which he has received much criticism. A September 2019 Gallup poll revealed only 41 percent of Americans have “a great deal” or “fair amount” of faith in the mass media. Public mistrust in the press cannot be attributed wholly to Trump, however. The media’s track record speaks for itself: blatant lies over the Russia collusion hoax, Trump’s impeachment, the Jussie Smollett hoax, the Covington Catholic high school students story, and grossly mischaracterized pro-life legislation, among countless other errors. The media has even mocked Trump supporters as “credulous boomer rube[s].”
The press wielding its power in such a way is consistent with the attorney general’s assessment of progressives, however. According to Barr, progressives prop up politics as religion, taking a no-holds-barred approach — including weaponization of the press — to achieve their desired goals, which are “earthly and urgent.”
Totalitarian democracy, says Barr, “requires an all-knowing elite to guide the masses toward their determined end, and that elite relies on whipping up mass enthusiasm to preserve its power and achieve its goals. … [It] is almost always secular and materialistic, and its adherents tend to treat politics as a substitute for religion. Their sacred mission is to use the coercive power of the state to remake man and society according to an abstract ideal of perfection. The virtue of any individual is defined by whether they are aligned with the program. Whatever means used are justified because, by definition, they will quicken the pace of mankind’s progress toward perfection.”
Barr’s Wednesday remarks are reminiscent of his November 2019 speechto the Federalist Society’s National Lawyers Convention, where he said, “[S]o-called progressives treat politics as their religion. … [T]here is no getting around the fact that this puts conservatives at a disadvantage when facing progressive holy war, especially when doing so under the weight of a hyper-partisan media.”
It is a puzzlement whether the cottage industry of international election observers populating the American commentariat really understand what is at stake in the upcoming British parliamentary election. It should be more widely discussed than it is. And analyses should focus on what is motivating voters, rather than whether the Tories or Labor are more likely, according to the polls, to come out ahead.
In reality, the future of representative democracy may be on the line, at least as far as the idea the people deserve to get what they voted for. It has been more than three years since 51.9 percent of those participating in a referendum on whether Britain should remain in the European Union took the position it should not. Yet, after three different prime ministers and one general election, the U.K. is still in the EU.
The why is easy to understand. The elites, including what has proved to be a majority of Parliament, think the people made the wrong decision and have done all they can to block Brexit from moving forward. But is that really appropriate?
Boris Johnson, the current prime minister, is a confirmed Brexiteer. He joined and later resigned from the government of his immediate predecessor when it became clear she had bollixed up the whole business. And he has pushed for this election in order to replace the anti-Brexit members of his own party with those who support his position and will vote with him to withdraw from Europe.
This is not a new issue. It has perplexed governments going back to Margaret Thatcher’s. Indeed, there are those who still believe her opposition to Britain joining the EU was the principal reason members of her Cabinet eventually plotted her overthrow. But the British elites—leaders in the permanent government, as well as the financial community, media, academia and foreign policy establishment—wanted in and, for their sins, they got their way.
The people were a different matter. Until the June 2016 referendum, it was conventional wisdom that it was only the cranky, fringe elements in U.K. politics who objected to EU membership on the grounds that British sovereignty was being impinged upon and for other reasons, those who populate the corridors of power found silly or unworthy of attention.
The referendum smashed that conception. To the shock of all the elites, a majority of the country ratified the “U.K. out the EU” position, believing they were setting out on a course to regain the nation’s independence. Yet the people’s choice has been thwarted, time and again.
First came the effort to discredit the vote, blaming it on anti-immigrant racism and fears of job loss in areas already economically depressed. That proved to be untrue. A survey of 12,369 voters in the United Kingdom conducted the day of the referendum found the No. 1 issue propelling people to vote to leave was their belief that the U.K. should remain a self-governing entity not responsible to some supranational body writing rules and regulations about the economy and other matters. Once that failed, the machinations began in Parliament and elsewhere to prevent the withdrawal agreement from ever being approved, which brings things to where they are now.
The election analysts who are part of America’s own elites have been strangely silent about all this. It may they are distracted by the ongoing congressional foofaraw over President Donald Trump’s interaction with the president of Ukraine to notice the global significance of events in the U.K. It’s not wrong to point out the similarities between Johnson’s effort to get a deal done and Trump’s effort to bring the American government to heel. Here, too, there seems to be considerable confusion, as Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman inadvertently confirmed to the House Intelligence Committee considering the impeachment of the president, about who makes policy and just who’s in charge.
In the end, if it is affirmed the people are in charge and that they exercise their authority by delegating it to their elected representatives, up to and including the president of the United States, then things will work out fine. The American writer H.L. Mencken, a friend reminds, once described democracy as being “the theory that the people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.”
Here in the U.S. and in Britain, there are those with power who believe it’s their job to keep the people from making what they regard as a mistake. If the battle over Brexit, which is one of those “mistakes,” goes the way they want, then all the small “d” democrats around the world have some serious soul-searching to do before we can regain the power we’ve apparently lost.
By Clifford Humphrey • The Federalist
It is no secret that the United States is a severely divided nation. In fact, division seems to be one thing that unites Americans today. Across the country, citizens disagree on kneeling, bathrooms, guns, and free speech. Californians are so divided they are actually considering splitting up their beloved republic into three separate states.
The important question on matters of disagreement is: Who gets to settle these differences? The answer, of course, is “We the people,” but we are disagreeing more and more about what that phrase even means. This disagreement is based in part on the fundamental distinction between a democracy and a republic.
Our Founders did not believe that the people have a right to enact whatever laws the majority necessarily want, but, rather, that the people have a right to enact whatever laws the people as a whole think are just. That higher aspiration requires Continue reading
By Jay Sekulow • FoxNews.com
Americans spoke out. And the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) listened.
A new regulation proposed by the IRS would have some nonprofit charities report the Social Security numbers of donors giving at least $250 in one year. The regulation would permit, but not require, charitable organizations to file a new, separate information return (in addition to the Form 990) to substantiate covered contributions. The new informational return would require the charity to collect an individual donor’s name, address, and Social Security number, and provide a copy to the donor.
I first sounded the alarm about this problematic issue last month. At the American Center for Law and Justice, we strongly opposed this regulation, filing comments with the IRS explaining why such a move would be damaging by undermining consumer and taxpayer protections, and likely result in reduced charitable giving.
Many others opposed the proposed regulation, too. Nearly 38,000 people filed comments online – the vast majority opposing the move. Continue reading
In a 2006 interview, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer said the Constitution is “basically about” one word — “democracy” — that appears in neither that document nor the Declaration of Independence. Democracy is America’s way of allocating political power. The Constitution, however, was adopted to confine that power in order to “secure the blessings of” that which simultaneously justifies and limits democratic government — natural liberty.
The fundamental division in U.S. politics is between those who take their bearings from the individual’s right to a capacious, indeed indefinite, realm of freedom, and those whose fundamental value is the right of the majority to have its way in making rules about which specified liberties shall be respected. Continue reading
Throughout their convoluted and bloody history, Hungarians never marshaled the courage to look reality in the eye and graduate from their kindergarten-mentality to adulthood. Devoid of the ability to think historically, national leaders always elected to reject the promise of the future for the sake of the tried certainty of the past. Thus Hungary was always a country in transition between regressive authoritarianism and an even more dangerous form of bureaucratic dehumanization built on the emotions of greed, class hatred and abject immorality.
Real democracy never existed in Hungary. It remained a poor feudal society until the union with Austria in 1867. Yet, even after 1867, a miniscule number of noblemen managed to sabotage progress and thus prevented the emergence of a sizeable middle class. The reign of Miklos Horthy between the two World Wars was characterized by chaos and confusion. Politically, its condition was totally unhealthy. Continue reading
On the subject of Egypt: Is it the U.S. government’s purpose merely to cop an attitude? Or does it also intend to have a policy?
An attitude “deplores the violence” and postpones a military exercise, as President Obama did from Martha’s Vineyard the other day. An attitude sternly informs the Egyptian military, as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) did, that it is “taking Egypt down a dark path, one that the United States cannot and should not travel with them.” An attitude calls for the suspension of U.S. aid to Egypt, as everyone from Rand Paul (R., Ky.) to Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.) has.
An attitude is a gorgeous thing. It is a vanity accountable to a conscience. But an attitude has no answer for what the U.S. does with or about Egypt once the finger has been wagged and the aid withdrawn. Continue reading
Nobody should have been surprised when Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi issued a “constitutional declaration” on Thursday asserting total political power. This was, after all, the former Muslim Brotherhood leader’s second power grab since he took office in June, complementing his earlier seizure of legislative and constitution-writing authorities by now insulating himself from judicial oversight. Yet Washington was caught entirely off-guard: Morsi’s power play was at odds with the administration’s view that the Muslim Brotherhood is a “democratic party,” and his impressive handling of last week’s Gaza ceasefire created a modicum of trust between him and President Obama. So the State Department released a predictably confused statement, urging “all Egyptians to resolve their differences … peacefully and through democratic dialogue.” Continue reading