Martial Law Is NOT the Answer!

by James A. Bacon

In a Tuesday Facebook post Sen. Amanda F. Chase, R-Chesterfield, a candidate for governor, called upon President Trump declare martial law and seize voting machines to find the voting fraud that resulted in Joe Biden’s election. “There needs to be a national audit,” she said.

President-elect Biden, elaborated Chase, is “not my President and never will be. The American people aren’t fools. We know you cheated to win and we’ll never accept the results. Fair elections we can accept but cheating to win, never. It’s not over yet. So thankful President Trump has a backbone and refuses to concede. President Trump should declare martial law as recommended by General Flynn.”

This is scary stuff. Chase’s comment has been appropriately rebuked by many fellow Republicans, including her opponent in the gubernatorial contest Del. Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights. Chase’s comment comes treacherously close calling for a suspension of suspending democracy, overthrowing the rule of law, and declaring a dictatorship. It’s dangerous as hell and, as far as I’m concerned, disqualifies her as a serious candidate for public office.

But there is a larger point to make. Chase’s comment demonstrates the extent to which a large swath of the Trump-voting electorate has become thoroughly distrustful of political institutions, the media, and the opinions of America’s cultural elites. The same day that Chase’s comment was reported by the Washington Post, these stories were reported in local newspapers in Virginia:

Campbell County. A crowd of more than 100 gathered by the Campbell County courthouse, laughing, whooping, and brandishing signs in defiance of Governor Ralph Northam’s executive order limiting the size of gatherings to 10 people. Most were not wearing masks, reports the News & Advance. Last week the county supervisors had directed the county to oppose any restrictions imposed by statewide mandates, declaring the county a First Amendment sanctuary.

Fifth District Congressman Bob Good, a former Campbell supervisor, supported the movement. “Here you have an example of citizens rising up and saying, ‘We are the ultimate authority in this nation. We are not going to allow our constitutional rights to be trampled upon, and we’re not going to continue to suffer restrictions that are not warranted with no end in sight.'”

Charlie Abbott, who organized the event, said there are future plans to assemble in community restaurants without masks, social distancing, capacity limits or prohibition on the sale of alcohol. “Someone needs to remind [Northam] that we the people still wield the power. So come and take it from us.”

Bedford County. Dozens of Bedford County residents gathered at a county supervisors meeting maskless in protest of Northam’s pandemic restrictions. County officials maintain that local government operations such as board of supervisors meetings are exempt from the governor’s executive orders, reports the Roanoke Times.

Last year Bedford supervisors passed a resolution declaring the county a “second amendment sanctuary” protecting the rights of gun owners and recognizing the county’s citizen militia. Now people are calling for Bedford to declare itself a “first amendment sanctuary.”

County officials have not commented on the first-amendment-sanctuary idea, but they are drafting a resolution in support of a bill submitted by state Sen. Steve Newman, R-Lynchburg, to limit emergency powers by executive order to no more than 30 days. “The never-ending practice of governing by edict and press conference is bypassing the General Assembly and is not a narrowly tailored approach to managing an emergency,” the statement says. “The unlimited timeframe” of the emergency hinders the ability of state delegates and senators to represent their districts.

Pittsylvania County. During a Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors meeting, a citizen described as close to tears expressed opposition to Northam’s “tyrannical” mask mandate. During his time to speak, Supervisor Ronald Scearce said he appreciated the resident’s comments against the governor’s “oppressive edicts,” and said he planned to disregard them during his holiday celebrations.

“For my family, we’re going to add some special civil disobedience traditions to our Christmas plans this year, and I plan on having as many of my extended family and friends that I can tolerate,” he said, as reported by the Danville Register & Bee. “And it will be without a mask. I hope the governor’s listening.”

When cities and counties declared themselves to be second-amendment sanctuaries a year ago, the paper resolutions didn’t hurt anyone. The current round of civil disobedience is a different matter. Flouting the governor’s mask mandate might feel good, but protesters are hurting only themselves by exposing themselves to the coronavirus. The sheer illogic of the form the protests are taking, however, is indicative of the deep alienation afflicting so many. It is from this wellspring of disaffection, I believe, that Chase draws when she urges Trump to declare martial law.

It would take another column — indeed the topic calls for book-length treatment — to suggest where this deep disaffection comes from. Clearly, it precedes the  presidential election that proved so disappointing to many. It was a year ago that the second-amendment resolutions were raging like a wildfire across “red” Virginia. I suspect that much of this emotional energy stems from watching Democrats and the media since 2017 declaring themselves the “resistance,” blocking Trump’s appointees, leaking classified information with impunity to embarrass the president, fanning the flames of the Russia Collusion delusion, slow-walking the release of documents that would reveal the truth, slandering Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, impeaching Trump over policy differences in Ukraine, and otherwise doing everything within their power to nullify the 2016 election. The behavior of Trump’s enemies, which included many illegal acts, gave credence to the notion that they would try to steal the election. Layer on the daily insults and depredations of America’s cultural elite rewriting history, declaring America a systemically racist nation, stereotyping all Trump supporters as  racists, and “canceling” all who would voice opposition, and I can understand where the paranoia is coming from.

While I sympathize with those who see themselves as citizens and patriots, as in fact I do myself, I am distressed to see their protests take such a self-destructive form. There are better ways to oppose Northam’s “tyranny” than exposing yourself to risk of infection of COVID-19!

And as much as the 2020 presidential election was likely marred by widespread irregularities, I believe Attorney General William Barr when he said they would not have changed the election outcome, I believe Republican election officials in Georgia who say their vote counts were accurate and that Biden won, and I trust the legal judgment of the U.S. Supreme Court, six of whose members were appointed by Republican presidents, when it refused to consider last-ditch appeals to contest the outcome.

Biden won the election. People need to get over it — and they need to find more constructive ways to channel their legitimate discontent. The country is a mess. Virginia is a mess. The identity politics, intolerance, civil disorder and regulatory overreach emanating from Virginia’s new ruling class is terrifying. But calling for martial law to overturn an election is not constructive. If anyone destroys democracy and the rule of law in the United States, let it not be the lovers of liberty.