Civil Disobedience or Insurrection?

Member Group : Lincoln Institute

The complete obstruction of a President Trump’s agenda and those who elected him goes well beyond constitutionally protected free speech and rises to the level of civil disobedience at best or perhaps an insurrection at worst.

We are at a unique point in history. The people who elected a freely elected president within the framework of the United States Constitution are facing an historic moment in which the government is its own insurgency against the very leaders elected by the people.

At what point does civil disobedience end and an insurrection begin?

Our own Declaration of Independence yielded perhaps the greatest distinction between civil disobedience and insurrection or revolution.

The Declaration said in part “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends ( re: unalienable rights), it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government…But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”
When our Founders threw out the government which was abusing them, a new Nation was formed unlike any in history.

After our own government was formed at the end of the Revolution, a bureaucracy was formed to administer the affairs of the nation. Growing pains for the new Republic continued for over 80 years before the Civil War in which the furor over rights climaxed in a great battle for the very survival of this Noble concept – our nation.

In response to the sign of the Civil War times, Henry David Thoreau wrote in his treatise, “Civil Disobedience”,

“The authority of government, even such as I am willing to submit to–for I will cheerfully obey those who know and can do better than I, and in many things even those who neither know nor can do so well–is still an impure one: to be strictly just, it must have the sanction and consent of the governed. It can have no pure right over my person and property but what I concede to it. The progress from an absolute to a limited monarchy, from a limited monarchy to a democracy, is a progress toward a true respect for the individual. Even the Chinese philosopher was wise enough to regard the individual as the basis of the empire. Is a democracy, such as we know it, the last improvement possible in government? Is it not possible to take a step further towards recognizing and organizing the rights of man? There will never be a really free and enlightened State until the State comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived, and treats him accordingly. I please myself with imagining a State at last which can afford to be just to all men, and to treat the individual with respect as a neighbor; which even would not think it inconsistent with its own repose if a few were to live aloof from it, not meddling with it, nor embraced by it, who fulfilled all the duties of neighbors and fellow men. A State which bore this kind of fruit, and suffered it to drop off as fast as it ripened, would prepare the way for a still more perfect and glorious State, which I have also imagined, but not yet anywhere seen.”

To respond to a nation in crisis after the Revolutionary War, our Nation passed the Insurrection Act of 1807 which, while amended, is still in force to this day.

When a nation reaches the point of insurrection, the power to deploy military forces in the nation can be used. But what occurs if the insurrection is by the bureaucracy against the people? No such event has occurred since the Revolutionary War and our current laws become outdated.

With the laws in the United States for things such as civil service and career bureaucracies whose very existence is dependent upon maintaining the status quo, the dangers to that group of anyone who threatens to “drain the swamp” will be profound and likely cause a pointed, directed, and powerful response to protect the status quo, a reverse insurgency of sorts.

Never before in United States history has civil disobedience been used by the bureaucracy against those it governs.

To be sure no one is certain about who the enemy is within the bureaucracy. Those seeking to destroy our freedoms and protect their livelihoods are elusive. It is as if we are fighting a clandestine type of war but within the government itself. The “protected class” undermines a nation’s ability to govern and ultimately leads to its collapse.

The stakes are extraordinarily high. The Judicial Branch is enforcing laws which seem designed to protect those in government at the expense of the governed. Eminent domain, sovereign immunity, and the like protect the government at the expense of the governed. In moderation, such constraints are acceptable but when non-elected bureaucrats are not accountable to the governed, our very freedoms are at stake.

When we disagree with this type of interpretation by the Judiciary, our First Amendment to the United States Constitution provides the basis for that freedom to disagree. When the Judicial Branch interprets laws to protect the government at the expense of the citizens, an effective insurgency is born against the very people for whom the Republic was founded but with no judicial protection in site for the governed.

The Presidential election of 2016 saw voter turnout in ways that were unimaginable. The people spoke. They wanted the swamp drained. They gave the Republican Party control over both Houses and the Executive Branch. They spoke loudly.

Unfortunately, those in control of the bureaucracy are refusing to relinquish power to those who are duly elected. The bureaucracy, through the Civil Service Commission, has made unelected officials significantly more powerful than the representatives of the people. The government has been overrun, the government has been overtaken.

Our government has so overstepped its responsibilities as enumerated in Article 1 Sections 7 and 8 of the U.S. Constitution that the bureaucracy needs the maintenance of the status quo to continue to feed the alligators making draining the swamp an impossibility unless the bureaucracy is broken apart.

The greatest gift one can ever give to a people is the right of self-determination. Unfortunately, unelected officials now have substantially more power than the governed. The bureaucracy has become a self licking ice cream cone.

Until the Civil Service Commission is reformed drastically, the Trump presidency will be doomed to a four year or eight year cycle of fighting the very institution that we thought was designed to protect us.

Col. Frank Ryan, CPA, USMCR (Ret) represents the 101st District in the PA House of Representatives. He is a retired Marine Reserve Colonel and served in Iraq and briefly in Afghanistan and specializes in corporate restructuring. He has served on numerous boards of publicly traded and non-profit organizations. He can be reached at [email protected].