Something for the left to think about regarding hate crime lawsby Stephen Gordon
As a libertarian, I find Republican Congresswoman Virginia Foxx’s comment that Matthew Shepard’s death was a “a hoax that continues to be used as an excuse for passing these bills” as reprehensible as anyone on the left ever could. Although she’s now apologized for the remark, she’s yet another good example of why the Republican Party continues to lose elections.
However, some of the well-meaning arguments used by the left regarding hate crime legislation make no sense to me, either. Most of my progressive friends are fairly bright people — and they are certainly smart enough to know that they probably won’t control Congress and the White House forever. It seems that the progressive movement is promoting a slippery-slope issue which will ultimately be used to target the left side of the aisle should the social conservatives ever take over.
When the Department of Homeland Security report branding of most people on the right as potential terrorist threats was made public, I had a difficult time being sympathetic to those who applauded President Bush’s egregious abuse of executive power and blatant disregard for civil liberties. Now that the worm has turned on them, a lot of conservatives are once again concerned about more than one of the first ten amendments to the Constitution. Their problem is similar to the same general slippery-slope the left is currently creating with the hate crime legislation soon to hit the Senate floor.
“Personal bias in officers or prosecution is absolutely indicative of what’s going to happen sometimes,” said Judy Shepard, the mother of Matthew Shepard, on The Rachel Maddow Show the other night. “Not always, but sometimes.”
While it isn’t the point that Ms. Shepard was trying to make, she brings up a very valid topic. Personal and political bias will happen as a matter of public policy should extreme social conservatives manage to gain political control. Imagine a President Mike Huckabee, Vice President Rick Santorum, Attorney General John Yoo, and Senator Ralph Reed.
If you don’t think social conservatives will do everything they can to define those in opposition to their agenda as hate-mongers, think again. They already call folks opposed to the Iraq War or the Patriot Act part of the “Hate America” crowd. With control of Congress and the White House, it would be easy to expand the definition of hate crime to suit their purposes.
Next, imagine that some gay guy murders some straight person. While he admitted some dislike for straight people in his confession, there is still doubt in the minds of some intelligent and reasonable people about his true intent. What is established is that the police found evidence that the suspect had participated in local Pride parades and his personal library contains works by Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Oscar Wilde and Gore Vidal.
If you don’t think social conservatives would use ownership of books like these as evidence, think again. If you don’t think the right is capable of stretching a legal definition to suit their own purposes, I’ll suggest that you go ask John Yoo about his definition of torture.
If the intent of the left is to provide some level of federal oversight to crimes ignored at the local level, please do the right thing and amend the Constitution if you don’t feel that the 14th Amendment provides enough protection in these sorts of cases.
By creating and now expanding hate crime laws, the left is unwittedly drawing the papers with which they’ll later be prosecuted.