Bluegrass Beacon: Capitol riots prove liberty and lawlessness cannot co-exist

Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions

Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021 — This week’s column was supposed to analyze Gov. Andy Beshear’s State of the Commonwealth and Budget address.

However, that speech was delayed by the chaos that erupted on Capitol Hill during Congress’ attempt to certify the Electoral College votes cast in the presidential election.

While there will, no doubt, be vigorous debate during the just-begun Kentucky General Assembly session regarding the governor’s agenda and budget proposal, there’s no room for disagreement that Wednesday’s events at the U.S. Capitol were, as Kentucky Congressman Andy Barr stated, “tragic, outrageous and devastating.

It would be hypocritically inconsistent to promote policies which advance freedom and defend individual liberties without also condemning the threat to the rule of law and order posed by the mob which stormed the very heart of our republic.

Advancing liberty-minded policy solutions in a lawless society ruled by thugs would, in fact, be meaningless – an exercise in futility.

Freedom and liberty cannot exist without law and order.

Our nation’s founders understood this.

Even when dealing with the tyrannical King George III and his egregious edicts, they totally exhausted every attempt at reason and diplomacy before issuing the Declaration of Independence which resulted in the Revolutionary War.

Then, they established a constitutional process for passing laws, electing representatives and a peaceful transfer of political power, which are the envy of the world and have, to one degree or another, been imitated by other countries.

Both of Kentucky’s U.S. senators deserve praise for defending the Constitution and recognizing that the way to resolve our political differences is through vigorous, civil debate.

Even as angry protestors outside the Capitol demanded Congress overturn the results of the presidential election, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, was on the floor calling for his fellow lawmakers to “respect the peoples’ decision and defend our system of government as we know it.”

While McConnell condemned those who for four years have attempted to delegitimize winners of the previous election, he also made it clear that “there can be no double standard” and emphatically declared “we must not imitate and escalate what we repudiate.”

Kentucky’s senior senator said overruling the voters, states and courts “would damage our republic forever” and be unmistakably unconstitutional.

“Protecting our constitutional order requires respecting the limits of our own power,” McConnell said.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., warned that the mayhem caused by the mob which stormed the Capitol “sets back any intelligent debate for a generation.”

That’s an extremely important point because the founders established a model for self-governance in which reasoned debate and political persuasion – not violence and anarchy – is the path toward lasting change in our state and nation.

Some of the greatest and most positive changes in American history have come from people who suffered a humiliating defeat in an election only to channel that frustration into a successful political comeback or some lasting policy accomplishment.

Kentucky’s Abraham Lincoln, the nation’s 16th president, lost eight elections, failed in business and had a nervous breakdown and then made a tremendous comeback to become one of the most consequential leaders in American history.

“It is one thing to be angry,” Paul tweeted. “It is another to focus one’s anger in a constructive way.”

Kentucky’s junior senator said he hopes that “we can channel” the energy displayed in contending over this election “into essential electoral reforms in every state.

While not everyone may agree that such reforms are needed, it’s a legitimate debate to have, if for no other reason than to ensure confidence and integrity in our elections.

What’s not – and never will be – legitimate is settling our differences through rioting, violence, property destruction and mob rule.

Or, as Lincoln said, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.”

Jim Waters is president and CEO of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Read previous columns at www.bipps.org. He can be reached at jwaters@freedomkentucky.com and @bipps on Twitter.


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