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The left doesn’t need orders from the top. Indeed, more often than not the left is governed from the bottom up.
This isn’t easy for conservatives to understand. Most of us, by disposition, respect hierarchy. A father at the head of the family, a boss at the head of a company, a president at the head of a country, a pope at the head of a church, and so on. So it’s natural for us to imagine that everyone looks at the world this way.
That’s one reason why when we see some new left-wing front open up in the culture war, we try to find the hidden hand controlling it — the George Soros, or the Michael Bloomberg, or Joe Biden.
But most of the time, the left doesn’t think this way. More importantly, the left doesn’t act this way.
This phenomenon of ground-up left-wing governance can be seen all around us. It’s happening in corporate America, where far from leading the charge, left-wing CEOs increasingly find themselves held captive to radical employees.
It’s true in the federal government, too. President Barack Obama didn’t need to call Lois Lerner to ask her to crack down on conservative organizations applying for nonprofit tax statuses.
It’s true for the left’s countless local political “machines” as well. They don’t operate with the push of a button or the pull of a lever, but rather live with everybody simply doing their parts. In the words of one Philadelphia Democratic insider who spoke to The Federalist, their machine is more like a “living organism” that doesn’t need instructions “to know how to breathe.”
It’s even true in the once-famously top-down nonprofit world, which has become so hobbled by ground-floor activism it can barely function anymore.
Finally, it’s true in the FBI.
Last March, the FBI raided the home of pro-life activists connected with efforts to expose infanticide at a nearby abortion facility. President Biden didn’t have to order that raid.
Similarly, it’s very unlikely he told the FBI to investigate parents concerned about rape, transgender propaganda, and critical race theory in Loudoun County schools.
Finally, we can be virtually certain Biden had no involvement in last Friday’s FBI raid on Mark Houck’s home. Houck, you’ve maybe heard by now, is a Catholic pro-life activist and father of seven in Philadelphia, who got into a minor shoving match outside an abortion mill a year ago after an activist intimidated his 12-year-old.
Pro-abortion campaigners sought charges at the local level and failed. They tried to sue Houck in civil courts but failed there as well. So finally, last week, they got a few dozen armed federal agents to raid Houck’s home, and then charged him with the federal crime of “interfering with a provider of reproductive health care.” He faces up to 11 years in prison if convicted.
Biden didn’t have to order that raid nor those charges. They didn’t trickle down from the top. They bubbled up from the bottom.
That doesn’t mean much to Houck, who was loaded into a squad car while his kids cried, his frightened wife rushed to try to get his rosaries, and armed federal agents milled about sheepishly on his front porch.
But the bottom-up tyranny of the left will have real consequences for all of us. Possibly deadly ones.
What we’re seeing in the FBI is two old storm systems colliding with a brand new one.
First, the old: The FBI has been political for most of its history. When you notice a lack of investigations and prosecutions of Antifa members, Jane’s Revenge terrorists, or Catholic church arsonists, you’re noticing the same trends Congressman Richard Nixon noticed all the way back in the ’40s.
Because of this, Nixon famously declined to share his evidence of Soviet spies in the Truman administration with the FBI. He knew that while Congress might expose and convict those spies, the feds would prefer to bury the embarrassment. Politics, you know.
Another constant is what one former DOJ staffer describes as “the G.I. Joe effect.” Federal field agents often lack common sense on optics and have a love for shock-and-awe force. They like looking like badass superheroes, even when the “bad guys” they’re taking down are just middle-aged dads who protest outside abortion facilities.
These two desires — looking macho and hiding embarrassments — are both regrettable but constant aspects of human nature. When you combine them with a groundswell of left-wing activism, you’ve got something dangerous on your hands — a perfect storm, of sorts.
Because when people see family men — fathers of seven, Christians, and pillars of their local community — cuffed in dawn raids in front of their wives and children, they see red. Regular people — normal people — see red.
When the FBI raided former President Donald Trump on a flimsy pretext last month, we knew it was bad. But most of us know that this latest show of brute force is even worse.
The raid on Trump was wrong in an intellectual sense; we can use reason to see how harassing former presidents damages our republic. But rounding up ordinary men who are a threat to nobody? That’s evil. We feel it in our gut. This could happen to us, and we know it.
And that’s bad for more than just short-term political reasons. This isn’t some political intrigue or Machiavellian statecraft. This is tyranny — brute-force tyranny, pure and simple.
“We have the guns, and you don’t. And even if you did have your guns you wouldn’t dare.”
This is political brinkmanship, not with Soviet subs or Chinese destroyers or Mexican cartels, but with us: everyday Americans.
To put it plainly, this is very, very dangerous stuff. It’s a form of political aggression that invites retaliation and risks a cycle of escalation that only ends when this republic is destroyed completely.
In one of his many prescient speeches, a 28-year-old Abraham Lincoln warned of what happens when bad men escape justice. When “the lawless in spirit” go unpunished, he said, they are “encouraged to become lawless in practice; and having been used to no restraint, but dread punishment, they thus become absolutely unrestrained.”
On the other hand — and even more deadly than this — Lincoln predicted how good men respond to this.
“Good men,” he said, “who love tranquility, who desire to abide by the laws, and … who would gladly spill their blood in the defense of their country, seeing their property destroyed, their families insulted, and their lives endangered … and seeing nothing in prospect that forebodes a change for the better, become tired of and disgusted with a government that offers them no protection; and are not much averse to a change in which they imagine they have nothing to lose.”
This is how things come apart. Not actions far removed, in distant Washington or London, Brussels or Mar-a-Lago — but those that take place in our bedrooms, in our living rooms, and on our front porches.
These are dangerous times. We must be immensely careful and keep firm control of our passions.
Reporting from The Federalist.