October 10, 2011
The Left's Love of Rights-StrippingBy Timothy Gordon
Recently, a very dear moderate friend of mine told me that all leftists could never fit in the "communist" category. After all, "they believe far too much in individual rights for that to be the case."
I've heard this vexing defense of the left often before. My response? "Forty-nine percent of the country paying no taxes: that's communism, brutha."
But then I realized how pedestrian and rough-and-ready an approach this was. One needs to get at the roots of comments like these. So I did. The most recent, standing jurisprudence in any area reasonably conceived as circumscribing an "individual right" -- recounted below -- betrays the left as naught but an opposition force.
Communists, both Soviet and American, believe in loads of human rights...facially. But from day one, they believe in the right of rights-stripping far more devoutly than they believe in those rights themselves. When one reads judicial opinions down through the years, one bears witness to leftists unabashedly making honest arguments against individual rights.
The First Amendment had one purpose: protecting political and religious speech. These are the precise types of speech -- religious and dissenting political -- that the left hates. For example, take Everson v. Board of Education's opinion (supported by amicus curiae ACLU, by the way), written by the KKK-member, rabid anti-Catholic, and statist Hugo Black. It's not quite the incarnate leftist support for the individual rights guaranteed by the First Amendment that any sort of a moderate would argue for. Justice Black and the majority created ad hoc a "separation" between church and state which discriminates against all who wish to freely exercise their religion in the public sphere (specifically in public schools). Such argumentation is regularly expropriated against the "right to choose" contemplated by school vouchers. So it seems that the left believes in neither free religious speech nor the "right to choose" as much as they habitually yell in one's reddening face.
Regarding the First Amendment's defense of political speech, I asked my friend to please see the McCain-Feingold Act (delimiting campaign support) and the Fairness Doctrine -- and its recent rejuvenation efforts by the left -- which aims to silence political speech opposite to the left's own. Also, one might consult North Carolina Governor (editor's note: not Congresswoman! Thanks to commentator Dr. Dave for the correction.) Perdue's remarks and President Obama's insinuations about the ease of governance in places without elections.
All I can think of here that may pull for the argument that leftists like free speech is the way they're always prepared to blindly defend pure filth: there are a couple of controlling mid-century cases where the leftist majority on the court affirmed the rights to pornography and, more recently (along with Scalia), to flag-burning. But this hardly amounts to the noble and self-effacing defense of un-preferred political language that moderates try to impute to leftists.
The Second Amendment serves (served) two purposes: 1) keeping state militias active (the statists have since conglomerated them into the national forces -- just as George Mason feared), and 2) keeping the individual right to arms sacrosanct. Luckily, the latter has been affirmed (to say nothing of the former's untimely demise) by a slight majority recently in both cases, McDonald v. Chicago (2010) and District of Columbia v. Heller (2008). But please read, my dear reader, the dissents in McDonald and Heller by Justice Stevens, where he bitterly laments that the majority has engaged in the sort of individual rights-coronation that one may imagine leftists like him to extol! Strange position for such a "individual rights" enthusiast to take!
The Third through the Seventh (minus the part of the Fifth discussed below) Amendments are all criminals' rights amendments...which, yes, the left defends adamantly as pillars three and four of its Marxist scheme: defending filth (recall their defenses of pornography above). I admit this readily. Oh, yeah, and we all agree about not having to quarter troops, so that doesn't go too far for the moderate thesis.
The single part of the Fifth which concerns non-criminal rights -- the takings clause -- isn't much better at evincing the left's putative "wild love affair" with individual rights. To say the least, real property rights are not an area that a leftist would cite to gain support for the notion that he's a rugged individualist. The controlling case here is 2005's Kelo v. City of New London, where Stevens (yet again) writes eagerly for the rights-stripping majority that municipalities can take lands from private owners and hand them, more or less, to other private owners (the Constitution stipulates that the taking must be public!). For some odd reason, Stevens the individual rights fetishist keeps on writing really, really passionate and gut-felt opinions and dissents directly against the individual rights that leftists like him are reputed to love.
Obviously, the Ninth and Tenth Amendments are unique in that they express not individual rights, but rather a surrogation/agency thereof: i.e., states' rights (that is, if one buys the idea of localism, which is, like the other undeniable precepts denied with regularity by leftists, an undeniable precept in human affairs). As I think anyone will cede, leftists openly hate these amendments and repudiate them by simply ignoring them.
Finally, one comes to the Commerce Clause. As we all know, no one defending the left's alleged "soft spot" for individual rights would hold this clause up as a great expositor thereto. Even having admitted this, though, I must articulate that after the New Deal, the Commerce Clause expanded farther than ever imaginable against individuals and their "pesky rights" (no, wait, we can't break character yet!). As of today, under contemporary Commerce Clause jurisprudence, the federal government can tell us to (Obamacare) make any purchases they want, or not to (see Wickard v. Filburn ) manufacture or cultivate or purchase any products they don't like. This, ahem, fails to help the moderate's case, too. Some wackos might think it even hurts it a tad.
Pfft...Tea Partiers, right?
Well, maybe the left -- one thinks in retrospect -- doesn't defend the multifarious rights to liberty or the right to property much -- the jurisprudence in these areas is too damning. But perhaps they really go to bat for the right to life...?
Let's see: nope.
The oft-invoked Fourteenth Amendment has been used to trample individual rights more than anything I can recall, contrary both to its altogether necessary reason for being and to its holy image. Again, this is untrue only when applied to the criminal law, where it has been regularly used to get convicted criminals off the hook for procedural police errors. So, again, criminals' rights are definitely a kind of individual right looked after by the left. Great.
Whereas the left claims lots of substantive due process rights to be vouchsafed by the 14th -- most of which are wild extrapolations like the snuffleupagusian "right to privacy" (i.e., a friendly force only they can see) -- they have fought with religious fervor against the application of the 14th in its most appropriate right-to-life forum: to fetuses. As you know, this fight is the le0ft's holiest.
Nor would a leftist take great pride in either Justice Black's majority opinion, or FDR's executive order, which affirmed the "right" to order Japanese Americans into concentration camps -- even under the aegis of 14th Amendment jurisprudence -- in Korematsu v. United States (1944).
All the real rights keep getting sublimated to fabricated ones. Maybe it's that the left resents the abstract proposition of right at all? Nah, I must be crazy...
Compiling this sort of catalogue is exhausting work, if you can get it. So I implore the blogosphere: would the real Slim Shady (I mean leftist individual rights-lover) please stand up? Can you identify yourself and tell me which rights -- besides those of pedophiles and pornographers -- you advocate?
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