It's not 100 percent clear the extent to which Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia meant what it sounded like he meant, but tossing around the word "revolt" in the context of a discussion of the U.S. government is never a smart nor rational idea. And it's especially a bad idea when it's invoked during an era when armed revolt against the government is being taken very seriously.
During a speaking engagement last week at the University of Tennessee College of Law, Scalia discussed how it's constitutionally permissible for Congress to impose taxes on citizens. Fair enough. However, Scalia added, "if it reaches a certain point, perhaps you should revolt."
The word "revolt" carries with it a very specific definition: "to break away from or rise against constituted authority, as by open rebellion; cast off allegiance or subjection to those in authority; rebel; mutiny." Not a lot of gray area there.
The only thing that might cast doubt on whether Scalia meant "revolt" to mean an armed rebellion is that later while answering a question about his decision to uphold the constitutionality of flag-burning, the justice said:
"You're entitled to criticize the government, and you can use words, you can use symbols, you can use telegraph, you can use Morse code, you can burn a flag."
While this could, maybe, possibly mitigate the severity of what he said, it's important to reiterate that he had apparently moved on to a completely different topic. By the way, a telegraph? Morse code? Was he drunk? Nevertheless, Scalia isn't known for soft-pedaling his language or mincing words, so it's reasonable to assume Scalia was suggesting a literal revolt against the government.
It appears as if we're in the midst of an upswing in popularity for anti-government revolution. Call it Rebellion Chic. The buzz has been gradually amplifying over the last five years, beginning with vague hints at secession and eliminationist rhetoric several years ago, but it's never been so openly embraced as it's been for the last two weeks. Formerly inconceivable, especially following the disastrous results for the old Confederacy, rebellion seemed like fever-dreams for a few revolutionary cosplayers and militia gun hoarders. But ever since the Bundy Ranch stand-off began in Nevada it's become a very real, very tangible option for the radical far-right, considering how a group of mounted hooples got away with marching in a line of battle toward several Bureau of Land Management rangers -- and were backed up by at least one armored yokel crouched in a sniper's perch, aiming an assault rifle in the direction of the government officials.
On top of the actual event, Fox News Channel and almost all of AM talk radio, minus Glenn Beck amazingly, has been cheerleading the Bundy Ranch militia, encouraging them to hold fast. For example, here's Sean Hannity floating the idea that the government wants to assassinate Bundy:
And here are the talking monkeys at Fox & Friends openly weaving into the story a silly conspiracy theory about President Obama mustering a citizen army to serve as another Nazi-style SS:
We've come to expect these kinds of crowd-pleasing rebellion fantasies to be marketed by the usual suspects. But when joined by elected officials and especially a Supreme Court justice, it takes on a patina of serious legitimacy. In Scalia's case, it's even worse given his status as one-ninth of a full third of the U.S. government.
And for the sake of what? A tax increase? Scalia should be old enough to remember take rates during the Eisenhower era when the top tax marginal tax rate was 90 percent, with effective tax rates for the super-rich in the upper-30 to middle-40 percentile, far above what it is today. Yet returning to those rates would ostensibly be enough to justify a revolt, so says a Supreme Court justice -- and a revolt, incidentally, that would precipitate the obvious death and imprisonment of most the people involved with attempting to overthrow the government.
Seriously, whatever happened to the reputation of the Republican Party and the conservative movement as the law and order people? It appears as if Obama Derangement Syndrome, with three years still left to go, has boiled over, squelching rational debate and confounding traditionally conservative values. Imagine, for a moment, if the Bundy Ranch people where Muslims and the guy who was perched on the overpass with his rifle was, instead, wearing a turban and sporting a C-4 vest strapped to his chest -- all mustered against the government during, say, the Bush/Cheney administration. It'd be called jihad, and, with the support of Fox News and Sean Hannity, the outcry for summary execution of the so-called jihadist ranchers would be swift.
Instead, Bundy is in clear violation of the law by not paying taxes or fees, and yet he's a hero to the former law and order crowd who's vocally encouraging him in his militantly traitorous endeavors. Likewise, a Supreme Court justice thinks it's unfair to be subjected to higher taxes but it's perfectly fair to revolt against the government.
I honestly didn't foresee the far-right careening this far off the rails, but there appears to be plenty of crazy-strength left in its tank. We've gone from the days of announcing a legislative agenda designed to make Obama a one-term president to considering the option of armed revolt. Can you imagine how over-the-top insane it'll be come next year or the year after?
"There's no earthly way of knowing... Which direction they are going... There's no knowing where they're rowing..."