"[T]he lawless in spirit are encouraged to become lawless in practice." — Abraham Lincoln, 1838
As a young Illinois lawyer, Abraham Lincoln was alarmed at the lynchings of both black and white citizens in free and slave states alike. He attributed this to the fading memory of the fundamental principles of the American Revolution and the authority of the U.S. Constitution. It is a sad fact that Americans, prone as any people to the law-breaking passion, periodically give it unrestricted sway.
In our time, both government officials and private citizens presuming to speak and act in the name of victimized minorities (aka: Democrat Party constituencies) are not merely charting a different course than the Republican-dominated federal government, as the Constitution permits them to do, but are actually defying federal law and the Constitution.
California is not alone in this current replay of confederate secessionism but it is unquestionably the leader, given its nearly 40 million souls and thereby great political clout. By Democrat Gov. Jerry Brown and the State Senate and Assembly, we see an egregious attempt to operate outside of our political institutions and dangerously to divide out nation.
It was precisely for the purpose of perpetuating our political institutions that Lincoln warned against the effects of mob law, on the streets, but no less by those in authority. Today we see the same cooperation between factions (Black Lives Matter, Gay Pride, Women’s March, La Raza, etc.) and the declining numbers of elected Democrats in federal and state offices.
On June 4, the Associated Press summed up the misguided legislative agenda of California’s Democrats on immigration, health care, criminal justice and marijuana in calm, matter-of-fact fashion, but one does not have to be a rabid right winger to be alarmed.
In arguing that California’s actions constitute rebellion against American citizenship, I cite two problems: 1. blurring the distinction between citizens and non-citizens and 2. detaching Californians from the nation. Both are equally damnable.
It is bad enough that 95 bills were passed in violation of Proposition 54, which mandates a 72-hour waiting period before final passage. But the common thread is a resolute determination to defy the expressed will of a constitutional majority of the American people in the 2016 election.
A willful refusal to enforce laws against illegal immigration most vividly demonstrates the mobocratic spirit. One measure blacklists companies that might want to help build the border wall. Sen. Ricardo Lara, who authored SB 30, said that the wall is harmful to immigrant families and the environment. But that is plainly pandering to the Democrats’ ever-enlarging voter base.
Other bills would (quoting the AP) “protect [illegal?] college students from federal immigration officials” and “bar employers from letting federal immigration agents access their worksites and files without a warrant or subpoena, an effort to prevent raids.” Other bills would “prohibit local governments from contracting with private prisons to detain immigrants, and reduce using false documentation to conceal immigration status from a felony to a misdemeanor.”
Can there be any doubt that the Democrat Party is elevating the status of illegal immigrants over that of actual citizens of the United States and legal residents of California?
The U.S. Constitution clearly states that Congress has the power “to establish a uniform rule of naturalization.” The key word is “uniform,” which means that the federal rule is exclusive and binding. When Arizona attempted to fill the gap left by the federal government’s refusal to enforce immigration laws, Democrats cited this provision. Now when they aim at weakening federal enforcement, the supremacy of federal law is unceremoniously dispensed with.
California’s end run around the looming repeal of Obamacare, entailing as much as $100 billion in new taxes to support “single payer,” is not so much unconstitutional as fiscally reckless.
A similar judgment is in order about so-called “bail reform” that would authorize judges to use more “discretion” for poor defendants and (again AP) “bar suspending drivers’ licenses for not paying traffic fines,” and “blocking employers from using arrest records to immediately screen out job applicants.”
Tellingly, pending legislation regarding marijuana is both unconstitutional and unwise. Whatever one’s opinion of federal laws restricting marijuana sale and use, federal law preempts state law. The clash is head on in a bill authorizing state and local police to refuse to help enforce federal anti-marijuana laws. Another bill brazenly would require law-enforcement personnel to uphold state law OVER federal law!
American citizenship is being both cheapened and weakened by the lawlessness of California’s Democrat Party. Those who remain loyal for the sake of the extraordinary privileges it bestows on citizens should reconsider as those privileges are transferred to non-citizens who have little or no stake in preserving the U.S. Constitution.
Richard Reeb taught political science, philosophy and journalism at Barstow Community College from 1970 to 2003. He is the author of "Taking Journalism Seriously: 'Objectivity' as a Partisan Cause" (University Press of America, 1999). He can be contacted at email@example.com