Virginia Gov. Northam Smears Gun Control Opponents to Frighten His Base – Reason.com
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam misuses a regularly scheduled political rally to scare his grassroots and increase support for his troubled government. The democratic governor has lobbied grassroots against weapons restrictions as a potential source of “violent extremism” and declared a state of emergency.
It’s a cheap attempt to build support by de-legitimizing opposition to your policies. On the way to declaring a state of emergency, Northam breathlessly warned:
Credible information gathered by Virginia law enforcement suggests tens of thousands of supporters plan to gather in Capitol Square for events that culminate on January 20, 2020. The information available suggests that a significant number of these protesters are likely to come from outside the Commonwealth, armed and aimed not at peaceful gathering, but rather violence, riot and insurrection.
The “events that culminate on January 20, 2020” consist of the Virginia Civil Defense League’s (VCDL) annual lobby day, which, like many other organizations, gathers in Capitol Square (the Virginia Nurses Association has ended four lobby days planned in January and early February). In this case, the organization campaigns for self-defense rights and against restrictions on them.
Pictures of the peaceful rally 2017 of the VCDL can be seen on the website of the organization. This is a normal, regularly scheduled gathering designed to influence public order.
However, the governor warns that this year’s event contains “white nationalist rhetoric and plans by militias outside the state to participate”. He links the gathering to “events that have taken place in Charlottesville,” as if a gathering of opponents of his policies must inevitably fall into violence from fringe residents.
Will marginal racists and right-wing extremists take part in today’s rally? Pretty sure. Back when antiwar protests were a thing (remember them?) That was even more predictable than Susan Sarandon on stage, groups of very left-wing types wandered the crowd trying to convince participants that a desire for peace was a workers revolution implied and liquidate the bourgeoisie. Radicals often woo recruits by tracing their causes back to common ones. In and of itself, that doesn’t reflect the main cause.
Indeed, one of the groups joining the rally is Antifascists of the Seven Hills, an anti-capitalist group that speaks out against gun restrictions because “gun control is used to weaken our defensive positions”. They don’t want to leave a racist presence at the rally unhindered by other pro-gun voices.
“When we began to think about how to deter their recruitment and destroy their ability to harm people, lobby or otherwise go about their business, we found that the VCDL was dragging lines in the sand and trying to to distance itself from other themes and symbols such as the Confederate battle flag, “the group noted on their Facebook page.
Whatever your take on Antifa (I was a reviewer) it is clear that this is not the unalloyed white nationalist assembly that Northam describes.
No, whether you agree or not, the message of the rally is certainly mainstream. Even as the VCDL warns that “the proposed bills will turn many semi-automatic gun owners into criminals,” 86 of Virginia’s 95 counties had adopted measures at the end of December to declare themselves protected areas for self-defense rights.
“They suggest the counties may not enforce new state gun rights laws,” reports the Wall Street Journal of the sanctuary jurisdictions.
This largely reflects the government’s version of the national urban-rural divide, in which too many politicians favor one side and defame and punish the other. In Virginia, support for Northam and the Democratic legislature is centered on the state’s urban crescent, while the sanctuaries are in rural and suburban areas, which even a Democratic district chairman accused his party of “malicious neglect”.
With an immediate post-election victory pushing for gun restrictions, State Democrats are playing against the prejudice of their base from city to suburb with laws restricting them to the rural areas where such laws are largely unpopular.
Playing the same game a year after the news that he was dressed in black years ago, Northam seeks reinvigorated credibility among urban progressive voters by advancing his party’s gun control proposals. And then he doubles as he smeared his opponents as “violence, riot and insurrection”.
But what about this “credible information” Northam gathered from law enforcement agencies? It may exist, but governments have a long history of fueling public fears, delegitimizing opponents, and justifying extraordinary actions.
“The whole goal of practical politics is to alert the population (and therefore to bring them loudly to safety) by threatening them with an endless line of hobgoblins, all of whom are imaginary,” HL Mencken mused decades ago.
“At least to me it had become clear that the repeated invocations of terror by the political class were not a response to a particular threat or concern, but a cynical attempt to turn terror into a permanent danger that required constant vigilance, that of undeniable authority was enforced “Edward Snowden wrote in the Permanent Record 2019 about his growing awareness of what is behind the surveillance state.
Northam’s alleged “credible intelligence” that this year’s rerun of an annual political gathering could erupt into an orgy of racism and violence gives him the fodder to proclaim a state of emergency over a normal expression of political disagreement. Northam makes it clear that he only represents his supporters, that he looks beyond the pale measure of the political views of the opponents and is ready to use extraordinary means to assert himself.
Northam isn’t the only culprit in this regard. Treating opponents as abnormal, subject to special sanctions, and even being seen as enemies of the people is an increasingly popular tactic for the American political class. It’s also incredibly dangerous to the health of the political system.
People who are treated by government officials as enemies to be crushed would be foolish to submit to the authority of those officials. To do this means bare the throat of a predator. When politicians stain their opponents as illegitimate, they should be ready to receive equal treatment in return.