– Daren Jonescu

According to the Washington Post’s Philip Rucker, President Obama is committed to moving quickly on gun violence legislation. Reported as good news, in truth this carefully projected haste and urgency ought to be regarded — and would be reported, by a media that did not have a stake in leftist authoritarianism — as the gravest warning sign.

“A warning sign of what?” asks the scoffing useful idiot. “Of the end of even the pretense of liberal democracy, constitutional republicanism, or any other form of government answerable to the governed.”

It became a cliché during the last century to say that tyranny has the advantage over freedom in a crisis, because while the legitimate government must follow its own internal processes for assuring the consent of the people (or of their representatives) prior to acting, the tyrant may simply issue a decree, irrespective of anyone’s objections.

It is true that legitimate governments comprised of co-equal branches, or of deliberative bodies, are somewhat limited in their power to act precipitately. And that limit is precisely the source of their legitimacy.

In almost all circumstances, sometimes even including the most grave and pressing, legitimate governments are compelled to engage in some measure of deliberation. That is, they are restricted in their actions and responses to what can be agreed upon through a process of reasoning. If there are disagreements about the need for action, they must be heard. If there are quibbles about the course of action to be pursued, they must be heard.

Churchill argued vehemently and repeatedly in and out of the British parliament against Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler, and in favor of forceful action. Through this process, his case, which was initially unpopular both in parliament and among the British people, grew in force and effect, and Churchill himself was chiselled by it into a greater leader of men — precisely when Britain, and the world, needed such a leader. His path to action was longer and more laborious than Hitler’s, but he had right on his side — and he won.

Churchill was forced to these extremes of patient argumentation in the face of an immediate threat to his nation’s survival by a tyrannical lunatic commanding the most powerful military in Europe. That is a case study in what I am calling “legitimate government.” Illegitimate government, by contrast, would follow the opposite trajectory: pursue the most radical policy proposals while circumventing or avoiding patient argumentation and debate, even in matters of relatively little urgency.

To state this contrast differently, a free nation thinks before it acts in its own best interests, even in a genuine crisis, while an unfree nation is dragged into unthinking action against its own interests, in response to an illusory crisis.

When Rahm Emanuel described the Obama administration’s modus operandi as “never let a serious crisis go to waste,” many conservatives latched onto this supposed revelation as Exhibit A against the administration’s integrity. In truth, Emanuel was putting the idea out there early, in the first weeks of the administration, so that, through repetition, it could be transformed, over the course of Obama’s first term, from evidence of alarming cynicism into the definition of responsible governance.

Thus it is that mainstream reporters can now matter-of-factly describe the White House’s mission on gun control this way:

Obama’s advisers have calculated that the longer they wait, the more distance there is from the Newtown massacre and the greater the risk that the bipartisan political will to tackle gun violence will dissipate.
“This is not something that I will be putting off,” Obama said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” in an interview broadcast last Sunday.
At the White House meeting, [Sheriff Richard] Stanek said, “the vice president indicated that there was a very short timeline for him to get back to the president with his recommendations because the American public has a short memory.”

Think about that. The president and vice president of the United States are urging immediate action on gun control, pre-empting all debate about the measures’ constitutionality; and their justification for this urgent, anti-constitutional action is that “the American public has a short memory.” In other words, this is not a real crisis (i.e., an ongoing threat), and the public will soon realize that, and carry on with life as usual; therefore, we must act before that happens.