Wake Up to the Stakes of the Game

for crying out loud

By Chris Bray – December 30, 2023

The danger is that you concede an argument about a personality or an event, then find at some future point that you’ve accepted new systems and structures that are far more broadly applicable than you noticed at the moment you accepted the new rules. Everyone of every political persuasion should see the weapon on the table, because it’s going to be pointed at you and yours: libertarians, anti-war leftists, populists, paleocons, others too weird to name. Outliers. If your votes and your views fall outside an extremely narrow band of corporate-state “centrism,” what follows is about you.


Bill Mitchell, a media figure and DeSantis supporter, doesn’t see the big deal:

The problem is that Trump is “super toxic,” so whatever. Orange Man is bad, so the things you do to Orange Man are unobjectionable. Of course you can take him off the ballot — he’s a jerk. That’s, like, the Constitution.

But the constant background music for me in these discussions is that the government of Canada construed a peaceful protest against vaccine mandates as a national emergency, on par with a foreign invasion, and started freezing bank accounts and mobilizing force for mass arrests. A “Western democracy,” hearing dissent, started turning off the dissenters’ money, which means that government took away the ability of peaceful protesters to pay for things like housing and food. The patience of the global political class for disagreement is narrowing, fast and hard. (Cf. e.g. Ardern, Jacinda.)

So see what’s happening in the United States, and see where it points. On January 6, thousands of protesters turned into maybe hundreds of rioters; many people at the Capitol were peaceful and calm, while some weren’t. Almost none were armed, none used guns, and the question of law enforcement infiltration, provocation, and entrapment remains open.

But no one published a manifesto calling for the violent overthrow of the United States government, and the crowd didn’t line up at the Capitol with rifles and homemade bombs to launch waves of armed attacks on Congress. Compare: here’s Bernardine Dohrn of the Weather Underground declaring war on the United States, and announcing on the radio that “our job is to lead white kids into armed revolution.” Find me that moment on January 6, the explicit declaration of armed revolution aimed at the destruction of the federal government. No one has been charged under the Insurrection Act because no one has violated the Insurrection Act. The “insurrection” is a political construction, not a legal case.

So a riot can be an “insurrection,” in the complete absence of insurrection charges and convictions, if Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows (D-Longhouse) feels like an insurrection happened. She can “rule” on that.

Lone officials can unilaterally declare that American citizens are ineligible for participation in elections, because the activities of [insert name of bad people here] can be politically construed as insurrectionist — in the absence of due process and a jury trial. So, has anyone else engaged in highly politicized acts of aggressive protest that trended into rioting, and have any of them fought with police?

Protestors Take Over Grand Central Station video.

That looks like insurrection to me, Marge, and I bet I can find four judges or a Secretary of State somewhere who would agree. That’s the rule, now: if it looks like insurrection to some judges or a state-level elections official, in any state where we can official-shop for agreement, you’re an insurrectionist. I’m sorry, Gavin Newsom, the Idaho Secretary of State has issued his ruling.

Anti-vaxxers engaged in an organized effort to resist the authority of public health officials at a moment when lives were on the line! That’s insurrection.

You argued with government officials about their school closures and lockdown orders!?!?!? Insurrection!

Pro-Hamas protesters in Oakland blockaded a US Navy supply ship to prevent the crew from loading military supplies that may have gone to Israel. Insurrection!

Blocking the gates to Travis Air Force Base to prevent military personnel from getting to their duty stations? Insurrection!

The governor of Texas is doing WHATResisting federal authority sounds pretty insurrection, doesn’t it?

All of these people need to be disenfranchised as insurrectionists, by whichever four judges or one election official feels like doing it.

As I’ve noted before, respectable “mainstream” D.C. think-tankers are calmly declaring that members of Congress should be rounded up as insurrectionists:

When we get to the moment of the routine mainstream tweeting for LET’S ARREST CONGRESS, consider the possibility that restraint and balance are fading out, and newly minted political weapons are going to be used widely. If the broad, no-trial-needed insurrection weapon survives, it’s going to be used and used and used. It’s going to narrow the franchise, narrow the public sphere, and narrow the country. You can hate Donald Trump and see the danger of Shenna Bellows waving her hand and casually declaring him off the ballot. The point isn’t about Trump; the point is about the existence of that power.

Look at the premises and principles you’re conceding, not the people being discussed on the surface. Should the Secretary of State in Maine, or four judges in Colorado, have the unilateral authority to decide who may be allowed to become the President of the United States? If people in those positions have that authority, what are the other ways it might be applied in the future?

However hard this might be, see yourself in Donald Trump. If they do it to him, they can do it to you. Shrugging it off because you think Trump sucks misses an enormously dangerous point.

Chris Bray