Things Fall Apart

For some reason I’m on a mailing list called “Conservative News.” I have requested a couple of times to be taken off the list, but somebody keeps signing me up again. Anyway, today, “Conservative News” is announcing “The Conservative Exodus Project.”

I am copying and pasting this from the Exodus web page. Make of it what you will.

The Pledge

We, the undersigned, petition the Republican Party to support real conservative candidates for the 2008 presidential nomination.

In the belief that the Republican Party has become too liberal, we pledge, unless a suitable candidate is selected for the GOP 2008 presidential nomination, to stay home or vote third party (e.g. Constitution Party).

Returning to its liberal roots, the GOP has recently become the party of big business, neoliberal globalism, and unwise interventionism – not the party of conservatism.

The following presidential candidates are UNACCEPTABLE: John McCain, Rudolph Giuliani, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Sam Brownback, Mike Huckabee, Chuck Hagel, Condoleezza Rice, et al. They all support the third-world invasion of the United States.

Unless a candidate is chosen who is tough on immigration (e.g. Ron Paul, Tom Tancredo, Duncan Hunter, or another candidate yet to announce), we shall have no choice but to vote third party.

We would like to stress these five points.

(1) We oppose the third-world invasion of the United States, and reject amnesty and any path to citizenship for illegals. We support deportation, attrition, and massive reductions in legal immigration, especially from the third world.

(2) We oppose free trade, the support of which has become an ideological suicide pact. Free trade is both destroying our economy and undermining our sovereignty. Historically, conservatives have opposed free trade, and they should, but many in the GOP have been “neoconned” on this issue.

(3) We support a moral candidate, critical of secularism, who embodies the virtues of the Christian Western tradition.

(4) We oppose the illegal neocon war in Iraq. The transformation of the Middle East to liberal democracy is Jacobin, not conservative.

(5) We wish to see big government reduced in size – in all three branches – and for many offices and functions to be returned to the states, where they Constitutionally belong.

Unless the above criteria are met, we pledge to stay home or vote third-party in 2008.

Point #4 is especially fascinating — “The transformation of the Middle East to liberal democracy is Jacobin, not conservative.” “Conservative News” needn’t worry; the Middle East is more likely to be transformed into an Islamic theocracy than anything else.

Granted, “Conservative News” may be one old curmudgeon and not a mighty hoard. But this isn’t too far away from the stuff Richard Viguerie has been cranking out lately.

BTW, the elephant art is from a 1911 Puck cover. The fellow in the top hat in the background is President Taft. In 1912 Republicans renominated Taft, after which Theodore Roosevelt cut his ties to the GOP and became the Progressive Party nominee for President. This split Republican votes and enabled the election of the Democrat, Woodrow Wilson.

To Arms

I wrote yesterday, in a mostly flip way, about the appeals court decision that struck down a DC gun control law. David Nakamura and Robert Barnes write for the Washington Post:

The panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit became the nation’s first federal appeals court to overturn a gun-control law by declaring that the Second Amendment grants a person the right to possess firearms. One other circuit shares that viewpoint on individual rights, but others across the country say the protection that the Second Amendment offers relates to states being able to maintain a militia. Legal experts said the conflict could lead to the first Supreme Court review of the issue in nearly 70 years.

Some time back I researched the history of the individual rights v. collective rights arguments. I don’t have my research findings any more (that was about four computers ago), but I do remember that the bulk of historical documentation and scholarship weighed in on the “individual” side. Yes, the wording of the clause is ambiguous. But if you put the writing of the amendment in a historical context, it seems the amendment was intended to protect an individual right to own firearms so that the federal government could not deprive states of their militias. (Under the Militia Act of 1792, every citizen enrolled in the militia must own and maintain his own firearm.)

As I said, I don’t have the research notes any more and I don’t have time to re-research the question. I do remember that a lot of early American documents and case law seemed to assume the right was individual, not collective.

The District’s law bars all handguns unless they were registered before 1976; it was passed that year to try to curb gun violence, but it has come under attack during the past three decades in Congress and in the courts. Yesterday’s ruling guts key parts of the law but does not address provisions that effectively bar private citizens from carrying guns outside the home. ….

…The suit said the ban on handgun ownership violates the Second Amendment, which states: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan dismissed the suit a year later, saying the amendment was tailored to membership in a militia, which he defined as an organized military body.

The case moved to the appellate court, with the National Rifle Association siding with the pro-gun faction, while the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence joined the District. Reflecting the case’s national importance, various state governments lined up on each side.

In the majority opinion, Silberman wrote that federal and state courts have been divided about the extent of protections covered by the Second Amendment. Some have sided with the District’s position, that a militia means just that. Others have ruled that the amendment is broader, covering the individual rights of people who own guns for hunting or self-defense.

The Supreme Court addressed the Second Amendment in 1939, but it did not hold that the right to bear arms meant specifically that a person could do so.

Yesterday’s majority opinion said that the District has a right to regulate and require the registration of firearms but not to ban them in homes. The ruling also struck down a section of the D.C. law that required owners of registered guns, including shotguns, to disassemble them or use trigger locks, saying that would render the weapons useless.

If this case does go to the Supreme Court, I suspect the SCOTUS will either decline to take it or uphold the appeals court decision.

One of the things “everybody knows” about liberals is that they are opposed to gun ownership. But this perception comes from NRA fundraising letters (the liberals are going to take away your guns!) not reality. For years this has been a great wedge issue for the GOP.

It turns out I wrote about the DC gun ban in September 2004. And in that I linked to this Harold Meyerson column

Election Day approaches, which means it is time for House Republicans to run fully amok. Today, the House will take up a bill by Indiana Republican Mark Souder to lift the gun controls in the District of Columbia. Souder’s bill legalizes ownership of semiautomatic weapons and armor-piercing ammunition. How this would increase security around the White House and the Capitol is something that Souder and Co. have neglected to explain, but no matter. The House Republican leadership knows the bill won’t pass the Senate. The only reason it was even introduced was to force House Democrats — a number of whom represent gun-loving districts — to vote on this nonsense.

In other words, to vote against possession of armor-piercing ammunition near the White House makes one a “gun grabber.” The appeals court decision deprives the wingnuts of one of their talking points.

So far I’ve found no opposition to the decision on the Left Blogosphere. If the righties were hoping we liberals would be up in arms, so to speak, about this decision, I suspect they are disappointed. Ron Chusid writes:

In reviewing the reaction in the blogosphere it is clear, as anticipated, that intensity of support for the right to own guns is greater on the right. While this is a lower priority on the left, the sentiment is also with the rights of the individual. Even where bloggers have not commented it is noteworthy that there is no outrage over the court’s decision as would be expected if restriction of gun ownership was really a goal of liberals.

Ron links to several liberal bloggers who agree with the decision. These include Taylor Marsh, Matt Yglesias, Jeralyn Merritt, and (naturally) the Gun-Toting Liberal.

Personally, I agree with what Jeralyn Merritt wrote here:

Being for the Second Amendment doesn’t mean defense lawyers are not liberals. It means they won’t give up any constitutional right, even ones they may not exercise personally. Give ’em an inch and…..besides, the Second Amendment is only one away from the Fourth.

In other words, there’s to be no cherry picking of the Bill of Rights. If one amendment is expendable, they all are.