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Less than 400 days before he departs his office, President Barack Obama quietly made his Farewell Address to the nation. At a naturalization ceremony held at the National Archives on December 15, Obama stated “The truth is, being an American is hard. Being part of a democratic government is hard. Being a citizen is hard.” Obama made this statement unironically. Without irony because, under Obama, the breadth and depth of American liberties have been diminished, even though the document enumerating these rights was celebrating its 224th anniversary that very day and was housed in that very building. Unbeknownst to the new citizens who had just taken the oath of citizenship, being an American is hard only because Obama and fellow progressives have been busily undermining core liberties.
A tour of the Bill of Rights illuminates the treacherous path new citizens will travel.
New citizens will soon discover their religious convictions will have to accommodate the new definition of marriage between individuals of the same sex. In August 2015, a Colorado appeals court ruled that a baker could not refuse to make a wedding cake for a gay couple based on his religious belief. The Administration supports same-sex marriage but had no role in the Colorado case. Nevertheless, in October 2015, it did help two Muslim-Americans win a $240,000 settlement after being fired for refusing to deliver alcoholic beverages for religious reasons.
New citizens just missed United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch warning against individuals against making anti-Islamic comments. Lynch later clarified the Department of Justice would prosecuted “deeds not speech,” but still stated the resources of two federal departments would be available if anti-Muslim bullying occurred against schoolchildren.
New citizens should know if they begin working for a news organization that the Administration seized the phone records of journalists in an effort to identify the source of leaked classified information. Later that month, subsequent reporting revealed the Administration had additionally investigated a reporter for similarly relying on leaked classified information and had named him a possible criminal "co-conspirator" for his alleged role in publishing sensitive information.
Similarly, new citizens should know if they begin working for the Administration and make the fateful decision to leak sensitive information or blow the whistle on government wrongdoing, then they may be marked for reprisal. Of the eleven federal cases to prosecute government workers since the passage of the Espionage Act in 1917, ninety-eight years ago, seven have been brought by the Administration.
New citizens will learn mass shootings are a tragic phenomenon in their new home country, one, however, which the Administration has used to call repeatedly for restrictions on the right to own firearms, despite their ineffectiveness in the instance of the most recent domestic terror attack in San Bernadino or that armed citizens are sometimes capable of preventing mass shootings from occurring in the first place.
New citizens may settle in cities or towns where local authorities have acquired military equipment for use in law enforcement operations. In August 2014, Americans observed local police confronting protesters in Ferguson, Missouri with military equipment. In such an environment, the sanctity of the citizen’s home diminishes vis-a-vis the writ of local police, whose tactics have become increasingly questionable. The Administration is hardly responsible for this development and has limited authority here, but it has presided over an unprecedented acquisition of firepower for agencies with seemingly little need for it (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration?!?) while simultaneously seeking to curtail an individual’s access to arms.
New citizens may well know that former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden revealed warrantless monitoring of communications in 2011. The preceding Bush Administration had initiated the program, but Obama permitted its continuation and only ceased after its existence was disclosed. The NSA just ended surveillance of domestic telephone calls on November 30, but the opaque nature of intelligence activities precludes understanding the extent to which American citizens’ private communications may continue to be collected without a warrant. Indeed, continued aggressive surveillance has reportedly resulted in the collection of U.S. lawmakers’ communications.
New citizens may never need to invoke the right against self-incrimination but may be surprised (or not) to learn five Administration officials have pleaded the Fifth. Rarely does an Administration pass without an instance of corruption and in three of these five occasions, the matter was only the misuse of government funds. However, in the other two instances, officials from the “most transparent” Administration in history refused to answer Congressional inquiries in regard to one, a bizarre operation to transfer trackable weapons to Mexican drug cartels, and two, the more notorious harassment of conservative political groups by the Internal Revenue Service.
Sixth and Eighth Amendment
New citizens should be wary if they decide to self-produce videos for distribution online. Following an outbreak of protests across the Middle East in September 2012, Obama and other senior Administration officials named Nakoula Basseley Nakoula and his anti-Islamic video as the cause; more pointedly, they named him and the video as the catalyst for the allegedly spontaneous attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya that resulted in the death of the American Ambassador to Libya. Federal authorities arrested Nakoula shortly thereafter and held him in jail without bail for violating his probation related to a fraud conviction. Federal authorities held Nakoula for over a year and never brought charges relating to the video’s production.
Anwar al-Awlaki underscores the Administration’s disregard for the right to a trial, much less a speedy one.
Al-Awlaki was an American citizen and Islamic scholar who became a leader of the Al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen. In 2010, the Department of Justice concluded the Constitution did not prohibit killing an American citizen who had planned terrorist attacks against the United States. Subsequent covert American military operations began pursuing Awlaki and, in September 2011, succeeded in killing him with a drone strike. Striking Al-Awlaki in retaliation for terrorist acts taken under his auspices may have been justified, but two weeks later, another American drone strike killed Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, also an American citizen and only sixteen years old.
The decision to authorize any punitive measures without any form of due process is troubling, much less the recourse to use deadly force.
Moreover, capital punishment is not necessarily cruel and unusual, but purposely using deadly force to avoid the challenges associated with detention is, especially in the instance of a sixteen-year-old American citizen.
Lastly, new citizens may soon learn the Administration has been more than prepared to disregard state rights. In July 2010, the Administration filed suit against the State of Arizona over a law requiring legal immigrants to carry documentation and permitting law enforcement officers to inquire about an individual’s immigration status. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Administration citing the primacy of federal law on immigration matters, but upheld the latter provision. The Administration later complicated this state prerogative by declining to inform governors in 2014 that refugees had been resettled in their states, when tens of thousands of Central American minors arrived en masse.
In November 2015, thirty-one governors announced their opposition to Administration plans to admit Syrian refugees in the wake of recent terrorist attacks in Paris, France committed in part by individuals who allegedly entered the country as a refugee. The Administration responded by warning states that refusal to accept Syrian refugees would result in suspension or termination from funding for benefits and services. (Hypocritically, the Administration has opposed efforts by Congress to deny federal law enforcement grants to "sanctuary cities,” municipalities that refuse to enforce federal immigration laws.)
The Progressive Project
Acknowledged, the above infringements did not begin under Obama, but the continued and conspicuous erosion of core liberties under the most famous community organizer and constitutional law professor to become president promising a “new spirit of patriotism” is just a cruel farce.
Accordingly, a recent CNN/ORC poll found that 75% of Americans say they are “dissatisfied with the way the nation is being governed,” and 69% are “at least somewhat angry with the way things are going in the U.S.”, underscoring the comedown from the lofty expectations Obama raised when first elected in 2008.
More noxious are the polls documenting diminished enthusiasm for democracy and conviction in defense of the above rights. According to two American scholars, recent polling indicates that
- millennials don’t think it’s essential to live in a democracy (30%);
- growing number of young Americans think democracy is a bad way to run the country (just over 20%);
- support for illiberal alternatives to democracy is growing especially fast among wealthy Americans (16%); and,
- more Americans want the Pentagon to take over (just over 40%).
Indeed, healthy majorities remain in place in favor of democracy, but the self-identification of the young as progressive coincides with the progressive’s self-congratulatory cultivation of the young, especially in the case of Obama.
When the goal is a multicultural coalition that succeeds in winning presidential elections, the result is celebrated as progress.
When the democratic processes, free debate, and compromise required for governance present obstacles or arguments they simply don’t respect, progressives and the young are more than prepared to denounce and punish alleged opponents to progress.
Accordingly, the illiberal reaction is unsurprising, especially when, as previously noted, an age cohort (the young who have minimal experiences on which to draw when evaluating a charismatic cipher) gives its overwhelming support to a cadre of ideologues that have more than ready to denounce American voters and the democratic process.
In this regard, progressives and America’s youthful “snowflake fascists” are made for each other.
Obama infamously denounced conservative voters for bitterly clinging to their First and Second Amendment rights and a member of his administration casually acknowledged implementation of their agendas depended on the “stupidity of the American voter”. Meanwhile, college campuses are in thrall to the progressive trope of multiculturalism and rife with Orwellian disgraces such as free speech zones, safe spaces, speech codes, vigilantism against trigger words and micro-aggressions, and official “bias protocol and response teams.” (Even its vanguard isn’t safe from their historical nihilism.)
Ultimately, the speech and sentiments underscore the continuing progressive bid to “fundamentally transform” America.
American citizens of all origins should be wary.
As with all fantasy ideologies, progressivism -- more properly liberal fascism -- is only content with the creation of “new men”.
Obama and fellow progressives dream of relentlessly political individuals prepared to surrender long-held constitutional liberties for multicultural chimeras.
Under the rubric of progressive multiculturalism, everyone is unique and, thus, no one is unique; without the recourse to their constitutional rights, then they will then finally be ready for the yoke.
Unsurprisingly, the liberal website hosting the above story about changing attitudes to democracy featured a banner image of Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump, as if to suggest he exemplified this emerging illiberal impulse. Trump is an undisciplined professional politician, but he does not represent a threat to democracy or civil liberties. Moreover, Trump has been denounced by progressives for his “politically incorrect” remarks and testy relations with the press, but it has been this Administration that has engaged in tortuously contorted doublespeak to avoid saying “Islamic terrorism” and Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton has been the one politician roping off reporters’ access to her.