Contingent Arguments on the Left


Rhode Island native and alumnus of the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity Akash Chougule recently appeared in the pages of the Wall Street Journal:

For years Democrats—following union marching orders—have sought to deny millions of workers the protection of a secret ballot in union elections. Organized labor prefers that employees make these choices openly, often in front of union organizers or on the doorsteps of their own homes. These “card check” elections allow unions to see exactly who stands with or against them—making countless workers vulnerable to harassment and intimidation.

Akash contrasts this policy with the Democrat National Committee’s effort to maintain secrecy of ballots in the vote for chairman, “fearing backlash from progressives.”  The headline calls this “hypocrisy.”

Look, the Left, progressives, liberals, whatever, is not built on coherent ideas.  Despite adulation of “science” (whenever it fits the narrative), policies on the Left are founded in emotion and political expedience.  The arguments, in other words, tend to arise in support of conclusions reached for some ulterior reason.  It’s all just power and rhetoric.

Take a letter to the editor that just popped up in Tiverton by local activist Andrea Souza.  As the Budget Committee (of which I’m an elected member) comes toward the end of its seasonal session, a majority of us voted last week to end the public forum at the beginning of each of our meetings.  Most weeks, nobody has utilized it.  Other weeks, the podium has been used to attack and spread false information about committee members.  Sprinkled in there have been a few statements that raised substantive points.  Nobody remembers, by the way, a previous Budget Committee that offered such a forum.

This is how Ms. Souza characterizes the effort to close the forum out for the last few meetings:

By removing this public forum, it makes this committee no better than Stalin, Lenin or even Kim Jung Un. Members of our town have fought and died for our right to speak out at meetings and give our elected officials our opinions on decisions that affect our daily lives. Removing the public forum is not only wrong, it is anti-American.

The three mentioned dictators made prisons of their nations, with death tolls reaching into the millions.  The Budget Committee, in contrast, has relatively little power in town and, moreover, has done nothing to stop people from sending us correspondence or communicating with the public by, for example, writing letters to the editor.

More to the point, though, these dictators were all communists, for whom the state defined society (as the first commenter to her letter points out), whereas what Souza really dislikes about some of us on the Budget Committee is that we’re attempting to limit taxes and the number of activities over which local government has claimed authority.

To be sure, I can sympathize with her conundrum.  Searching for monsters in history to whom she could compare local political opponents, Souza may have had trouble coming up with anybody who shared our basic worldview and not hers.  People who don’t think government is their mechanism to take money from their neighbors for their own activities and priorities tend not to think that government is their mechanism to take total control over society.

But again, her objective isn’t intellectual consistency.  It’s to insult people with whom she disagrees and attempt to silence them by presenting them to their community as just like monsters.  After all, how ought a town to respond if it discovers a budding monster in its midst?  It wasn’t that long ago that the Left was declaring it beyond the boundaries of civil discourse to call people “un-American” (let alone “anti-American”).

  • BasicCaruso

    One can only imagine how Justin would have reacted to such a change before he was a member of the committee.

    Why not close the meetings entirely, right? You know to avoid anyone holding up signs that might “attack” elected officials or “spread misinformation” (read, disagree with the official pronouncements of The Committee). Who needs public input when you already have all the answers?

    • Justin Katz

      No need to “only imagine.” Some years ago, I thought it was peculiar for the Town Council to shift from allowing public input on each agenda item to the format of a single public forum, which I found to be more or less a distraction, and I expressed the same thought when the Budget Committee instituted its own public forum. Alas, the rest of the committee wanted the single, often irrelevant forum.

      Had we gone with a policy of accepting feedback as part of the discussion of each item, it would be more obvious why it’s appropriate to end the public feedback now that we’re getting to the point of actually discussing the information among ourselves and voting.

      All of this said, there are plenty of opportunities for the public both to communicate with us and to express their opinions publicly. Our specific committee has a limited amount of time to review the entire budget and discuss options, so limits on each meeting are entirely reasonable.