Reading over the transcript from the President’s speech last night, there are few surprises. It was boilerplate Big Government worship. Kinda disappointing from someone who used to be a moderate Democrat. But of course, Biden isn’t the one in charge now.
The most disappointing part came in something that was not in the transcript. It appears our President broke out one of the worse modern-day canards in order to justify further erosion of individual liberty. To wit—the odious “fire in a crowded theater” gambit.
History time. The shouting-fire-in-a-theater analogy was written in a majority opinion by Oliver Wendell Holmes in Schenck v. US in 1919. It was subsequently repeated by untold numbers of censorship apologists in the ensuing century. What was it about? The ruling allowed the Woodrow Wilson administration to throw a bunch of peaceful socialists into prison for violating the Espionage Act of 1917. The alleged “harm” of these anti-war activists, clearly exercising political expression, was undermining recruitment efforts for World War I.
The ruling which this comment supported has since been struck down as unconstitutional. Another interesting factoid? Holmes later denounced his own ruling. He realized the license he had given people like President Biden to declare any portion of the Constitution null and void based on any extenuating circumstances they could imagine.
This has been the go-to argument for people who have issues with the breadths of the first two amendments to the Constitution. If you are frustrated that the First or Second Amendments prevent all of your good ideas from being instituted, then you are just the kind of person the Constitution was designed to frustrate.
To further buttress his position, the President assured us that “no Constitutional amendment is absolute.” Is that so, Mr. President? Tell me…what are the limitations to the 13th Amendment? Are there STILL cases where people can be forced into slavery? What about the 19th amendment? Are they cases where people can be denied a vote because of their gender? This can be brought up about a number of other amendments. You don’t get to tightly interpret the parts you like—then broadly interpret the ones you don’t. That is wrong.
This is to say nothing of the flat-out lies Biden shared in his urge to make sure no one has a handgun capable of firing more than ten rounds. Legislation that would target more than 80% of the weapons in current use is an “infringement,” no matter how you dress it up for defend it.
I was hopeful that the answer to the chaotic Presidency of Donald Trump would not be a lurch to the far-left, with a near-limitless expansion of central government authority and constant erosion of individual liberties. I was wrong. And I have little hope that there is sufficient appetite in Washington (or anywhere else) for the maxim that the Government which governs best is that which governs the least.