Select Page

The Violence of the Politically Incompetent

Dear Editor,  

Sci-Fi titan Isaac Asimov wrote, “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.”  In the world of 2021, fiction has become political reality.  

It is easy to point to the disgraceful events of January 6, when several hundred “patriots” desecrated our cathedral of democracy.  The biggest factor that turned an intense political protest into a destructive riot was the opportunism of extremist groups like the Oath Keepers and 3%ers.  These fringe groups, and others like them on the left, are unable to win broad support for their beliefs.  All they can do is hijack other movements (racial justice, election integrity) and profit from the violence.  For them, political power grows out of the barrel of a gun. They need the system to collapse. When it comes to democracy, they are incompetent. Violence is their only option.  

Not all violence is physical violence.  For the last several months, our institutions and traditions have been under assault by the progressive left and the capitulating “leaders” of the Democratic Party.  In a perverse “ends justify means” campaign, the left has pushed to restructure the Supreme Court, threatened that individual Justices will “pay the price” for rulings in which they do not agree, lobbied to end the filibuster, abused the reconciliation process to end-run Senate norms, agreed to support “compromise” legislation only if everything on their $3.5 trillion wish list is approved in a separate bill, and demanded that President Biden sign unconstitutional executive orders.  Even though the Democrats only have a threadbare majority in Congress, these political extremists want it all now regardless of the long-term damage to our country.  As Congresswoman Ocasio Cortez said, “This is our one big shot.”  

Let’s face it: If their ideas were so clearly good for the nation then they’d be able to get at least one Republican senator to support them.  The CNN’s of the world may portray the big bad Republicans as obstructionists, but the truth is 9 of the 10 most bipartisan senators are Republican… and that does not include Mitt Romney.  If you can’t convince moderates like Romney, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski to support your plans and if you have to threaten Democratic colleagues like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to “keep them in line” then chances are your ideas are flawed.  In the old days, that forced the hard work of bi-partisan problem solving.  Today it means let’s just change the rules to get the outcome the majority desires.  

One of the reasons American democracy has endured and been so effective is that our system protects us from the tyranny of the majority.  Traditionally, major changes require consensus.  That need for consensus protects the minority from the destructive policies a charismatic demagogue could enact with a small majority.   It also means that the minority will live with the outcome, even if they don’t like it.  Removing the checks and balances in our government to achieve one-sided, short-term goals would weaken the glue that has held our republic together.  It would also usher in an era of extreme volatility as each change of the majority (from Democrat to Republican and vice versa) would mean extreme changes in policy. This violence against the sinew of our democracy, if we let it succeed, will end badly for all. 

What makes the current situation so tragic is that the extremists who are taking this “one big shot” have not won the majority.  They aren’t demonstrating great competence when it comes to winning over Americans.  Instead, they are bullying their way forward and the supposedly competent, experienced leaders of the Democratic Party are simply caving.  Instead of showing the courage and statesmanship to balance worthy goals with responsible governance, they are playing with fire.  They may think that harnessing the energy of a younger audience will help them hang onto power but burning down the house is never a good strategy.  

Paul King