Civil disobedience: Citizens pushing back against shutdown theater

Every American has a little sedition in his soul, and this is a very good time to give it free rein.

There is a finely calibrated bargain at the heart of a republic: Citizens have a duty to obey the lawful and legitimate mandates of the government, including those with which they disagree, and the government has a duty to see to it that its actions are lawful and legitimate. The people have an obligation to be prudent and circumspect about engaging in civil disobedience, and the government has a responsibility to be scrupulous with its powers. That contract has been violated by the White House.

The Obama administration, which already had a well-established reputation for taking a largely arbitrary attitude toward the rule of law, has sunk further in the public’s estimation with its unnecessary, unjustified, and possibly illegal campaign to use the shutdown as an excuse to harass citizens for the sake of political theater. The barricading of monuments in our nation’s capital is neither lawful nor legitimate. It is far from clear that the administration has the legal authority to evict Americans from public spaces, it is crystal clear that there is no real reason for it to do so in a great many cases, and it is more than clear that its reasons for doing so have nothing to do with public safety or financial necessity. It is a guiding principle of government ethics that using public resources for political purposes is not only wrong but categorically wrong. It is a serious breach of the public trust. When the government is taking actions that are self-evidently wrong, it is right and proper for the people to push back.

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