Tonight, I talk about some constitutional implications of the lawless ‘autonomous zones’ we’ve seen this summer in Seattle, Portland, and elsewhere.
The people who think these zones are cute are missing the fundamental point - the zones set themselves beyond the law in a country that has, up to this point, prided itself on maintaining the Rule of Law. If not the U.S. Constitution or the laws of the states in which these zones are situated, then what law governs? The subjective whims of warlords toting assault rifles? That’s hardly ‘sustainable’ or ‘fair’, to borrow words from the Left. This certainly violates the spirit of the Supremacy Clause of Article VI making the U.S. Constitution and the laws of the United States the supreme law of the land.
A welcome sign at the Seattle autonomous zone said “You are now leaving the USA”. Didn’t we fight a Civil War when the southern states seceded from the Union? So some punks secede from the Union and the Mayor of Seattle eggs them on with impunity - how does that work?
Next, Article IV, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution says the United States shall guarantee to every state a Republican form of government. When you start digging into the meaning of the word ‘republic’, it gets a little fuzzy, but there are two main components. First, representative government where officials are elected to represent the people. And second, a tradition of individual rights protecting individuals and political minorities from what our Founders called the tyranny of the majority. A pure democracy could vote to strip you of all your rights tomorrow and there wouldn’t be anything you could do about. This is why our Founders gave us a republic so we would have recourse against the will of the majority if it tried to trample our rights. I don’t recall in any of the coverage of the autonomous zones anything resembling elections or a Bill of Rights guaranteeing protesters free speech, freedom of religion and conscience, or any of the rest of the Bill of Rights.
Others have pointed additional constitutional problems with the whole exercise:
Local businesses have sued the city of Seattle for condoning the autonomous zone there and depriving the owners of their property rights and other constitutional rights.
The autonomous zone protesters in Seattle demanded retrials of all people of color serving sentences for crimes of violence. Because it leaves out whites, this would blatantly violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
Another demand is for juries to be composed of the same race as the defendant. The Supreme Court ruled a long time ago there is no right to a jury composed of your own race.
Protesters also want the courts abolished entirely. This would require tossing out the judicial powers in the U.S. and state constitutions, plus all the rights courts administer like the right against unreasonable search and seizure, the rights to confront your accusers and compel witnesses to appear on your behalf, and other trial rights.
I offer these thoughts not as a rigorous legal analysis of possible causes of action, but as commentary from someone who has studied political philosophy and constitutional law for decades and is concerned that not enough people recognize that these autonomous zones offend the philosophical underpinnings of our Constitution - concepts like the Rule of Law instead of Might Makes Right, limited government, separation of powers, and preventing the concentration of power in the hands of a tiny elite, especially when the self-appointed leaders of that elite have not been elected by anybody to do anything. I’ve studied the entire menu of political theories from the ancient Greeks on down and America’s Founders got it right - classical liberalism is the most coherent, humane, and stable governing theory ever devised. The U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence are classical liberal documents and are to be celebrated, not trashed.
The rioters show a profound ignorance of the Constitution and the classical liberal values supporting it. Part of the blame for this rests with public schools which have deliberately been trying to strip away America’s foundation for more than a generation. No wonder young protesters no longer understand their own country or what they are throwing away. But part of the blame also rests with everyone over the age of 18 who has not taken steps on their own to learn America’s founding principles or the system in which they are voting. Finally, a large part of the blame rests with the political Right - us - for sitting out for 50 years, letting it all happen, and not doing nearly enough to communicate the magnificence of the Founders’ ideals or why those ideals remain important today. Maybe if the couple in St. Louis had declared their yard an autonomous zone instead of just showing their guns, they would have gotten a lot more sympathy.