October 27, 2017 at 2:45 pm #2984
In August of 1954, during the reign of Eisenhower, the United States passed a law which prevented members of the Communist Party from contesting elections. The first court case on the new law ruled that it also meant that members of the Communist Party could not run on other party tickets if their Communist affiliation was part of their platform. A second court case widened it to include “front organisations.”
On the whole, this law was responded to in a partisan manner: people of the Left opposed it while the Right backed it. Van Der Haag, a prominent contributor to the National Review, said that “there is no place in democracy for those who wish to abolish it, even with a peaceful vote.”
In the half-century since, the law has been put into effect and has not been either repealed or found to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. America is a country in which political parties can be banned if they are judged to be subversive. If the majority of people found this to be an intolerable principle, they would have protested or written to their representatives asking for repeal. They haven’t. They are, if not happy with such a law, at least comfortable with it.
In the present day, this is an interesting precedent. While “free speech” is a term that has become something of a rallying cry amongst neo-Nazis, it’s still an important value in a liberal state, as is free association. To extend such a precedent is to risk much.
Speaking of neo-Nazis, however, allowing them to organise and proselytise undisturbed is also to risk much. Many modern commentators have suggested that the Republican Party is irreversibly infested by neo-Nazis and other unsavoury schools of thought which have no place in a democracy, from neo-Confederatism to Christian Dominionism.
If a Democratic landslide happens in 2018 and 2020 (as many analysts are predicting) then it may be politically possible to pass a similar law against the Republican Party, preventing its members and members of its front organisations from contesting elections.
In your view, should such a law be passed?
October 27, 2017 at 3:01 pm #2985
In my opinion: If the Republican Party in its current incarnation cannot successfully cleanse itself, it must be destroyed. As Chris Ladd has said, the surest way to destroy a party is simply to prevent it from accessing the White House. By passing a law similar to the 1954 law against Communists, this will be achieved.
However, I will give three caveats to my opinion.
The first is that there must be space for a party of the moderate Right to exist. A healthy polity does not disenfranchise its opponents, only its enemies, and it knows the difference.
The second is that I remind you that the 1954 rule is still pretty lax when compared to the sorts of laws we have at home against neo-Nazis. Some may see this as weakness; I see it as the admirable liberality of the American Republic even when dealing with its enemies.
The third is that no ground must be ceded to threats of violence. If people threaten to rise up in armed revolt if such a law is passed, or threaten to engage in campaigns of terrorism, then this is not a threat which should be surrendered to. The American Republic possessed security forces which have more funding and firepower than the rest of the world combined; I have confidence in their ability to handle it.
October 29, 2017 at 9:59 am #2986
I don’t think most Americans are aware of that law, and if for no other reason nobody has contested it in court. At this point it would probably be ripe for overturning, if any Communists cared to take it to court. I don’t think parties should be banned. There is the caveat that anybody who takes office is required to swear to uphold the Constitution, therefore can’t advocate overthrowing it, and must by their oath reject unlawful activities.
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