(ANTIMEDIA Op-ed) There will be moments in political life when people who incessantly profess stalwart principles in public—never, ever letting you forget their self-proclaimed moral righteousness— tell you: ‘Now is not the time to do the right thing, my friend. Now is the time to do the right thing for the cause! Sacrifice your silly ideals for the greater good of the nation! Didn’t you know already, growing up into a mature political adult means shedding one’s ideals and rebranding one’s disappointments as first principles?’
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This is the pickle Jeff Sessions finds himself in today. Unfortunately, it seems Sessions never received tutelage in an old American adage that “In politics, man must learn to rise above principle.”
No, Sessions, a literal boy scout, fancies himself a moral and principled man for many reasons, but especially because of his adherence to American “rule of law” and law enforcement. A indefatigable defender of some of United States’ most immoral and heinous laws, Sessions is an apt representative of two mistaken yet quite common political beliefs — (1) that the laws on the books are the embodiment of justice simply because they are the laws on the books and (2) that morality can and should be imposed on society through the violent means the law provides at the expense of individual freedom.
Yet, as it has been said for over a thousand years, “an unjust law is no law at all,” and to conflate law with justice is to presume that the state is not the servant of moral thought but the authority in matters of deciding what is good and evil. This puts the state beyond good and evil. This makes morality a set of marching orders rather than a matter of individual choice. This perverts morality, transforming social and political life into a horrid, involuntary game of sadomasochism dressed up in moral pronouncements.
To hell with this way of thinking! Morality is not merely whatever some authority says; morality is not simply a case of following this or that command (no matter how appealing that may sound to some masochists). To the thinking person, authority does not define what is good and proper. No, as it should be, what is good and proper defines who or what has authority.
But, instead of encouraging each of us to use our reason and persuasion to reflect upon our desires and choose a sound course of action, Sessions and many statists like him from both parties would have us blindly submit to authority and law. They would have us subject our moral wits to ‘the will of the people’ or ‘the experts’ or ‘the silent moral majority’ or the ‘forgotten men and women’ on the Trump train or else, suffer the legal and violent consequences.
But at least, if we follow the law, we should be just fine, right Jeff?
Well, no. We must also not look suspicious.
For example, betraying his supposed fealty to the 10th amendment, the 4th amendment, and limited government, Sessions has continued to doggedly defend efforts such as the federal drug war and, in particular, the practice of civil asset forfeiture, through which the DEA has seized $4 billion in cash over the last decade with 81% of the seizure cases having no accompanying criminal charges. Put simply, 81% of the time the DEA robbed people blind over their mere suspicion they were involved in illegal activities that shouldn’t be illegal in the first place. Jeff Sessions is just fine with that because, well, it’s legal and serves his cause to make us a nation of “good people” who just say no to drugs.
That said, Jeff Sessions is getting a taste of his own medicine. I do not believe in karma, but I do believe in cause and effect—in particular, that those who live by authority may very well die by authority.
Sessions hasn’t broken any laws, protocols, or procedures. He hasn’t outright betrayed anyone (with the exception of the liberty of those people he wishes to save from their vices). Nevertheless, Sessions is now threatened by the prospect of having two of his most beloved assets seized from him — his title as AG and his standing in national politics — because he has fallen under the suspicious eye of the new authority: the hip cause in town, Donald J. Trump.
Jeff Sessions went by the book when he recused himself from having anything to do with the Russian-Trump collusion investigation. Under normal circumstances, he would be lauded for behaving on the up-and-up and preserving the largely mythical independence of the Justice Department from politics. But his moody boss, President Trump, is no boy scout. And ever since Sessions made his by the book decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, Trump has been stewing and is now spewing like a portly, orange Mt. St Helens for the all the world to see.
Though some people may sympathize with the “beleaguered” Attorney General and find Trump’s public tongue-lashing of Sessions shocking and unseemly, I am not surprised one iota to see Donald Trump lambasting one of the earliest supporters of his presidency. Now that water is reaching the upper deck, the presidential rat has no patience for his followers doing something as silly as following established rules and procedures. No, Trump demands they must follow him and his orders. This is an emergency!
So, what will it be, Jeff? How does it feel to have some authority tell you to give up your convictions and change your behavior or else suffer the consequences for having done nothing wrong?
Jeff, you went to work for a man who allows you to continue policies that trample on individual moral lights and rights, policies that scapegoat vast swaths of people based on mere fear and suspicion, policies such as civil forfeiture, mandatory minimums, the larger drug war, stringent immigration enforcement, and mass surveillance. When you went to work for such a man, you should have been prepared for the possibility that you would be treated the same way as those poor souls he has allowed you to torment and scapegoat in the name of the law and your pet moral causes.
So, it’s time, Attorney General Sessions, for you to come to heel or leave town. It is time for you to give up your sense of propriety and serve your president’s wishes and whims or step down. In my opinion, you deserve to be fired for your terrible policy positions rather than your recusal, but I am not the president of the United States, thank the gods. I am also not foolish enough to believe your resignation or firing would mean the end of all the unjust laws you support.
No, even without you, they would continue, unfortunately. You are merely an example of a much bigger vermin problem in D.C. swamp, an infestation Donald Trump has no intention of eradicating. No, he is the king of vermin, yet another presidential Grand Poobah who believes and leads the hordes who claim we must sacrifice liberty to the state in almost every aspect of our lives for us to have a functioning and prosperous society.
Nonetheless, Jeff, if Trump punishes you for doing nothing wrong other than being “unfair” to him and his cause, I will not shed a tear. You have advocated and directed the same towards the American populace in regards to you and your cause. What a beautiful irony that even presidents with unjust intentions can deliver up poetic justice at times, as unwitting as it may be.
Hell, if you are fired and your greatest asset — your dream job — is stripped away from you, Jeff, have hope. Take heed: I hear whispers here in Alabama that if you were to come back to your native soil, even so downgraded and downtrodden, the governor’s office would be yours for the taking. Whether that is because the people of Alabama are incredibly forgiving, pitying, and merciful or simply prone to nincompoopery, I have no clue and do not care.
Just know, Jeff, whether you stay on as AG or fall from your high perch only to rise again in the Heart of Dixie, your political career will be ignominious as long as you continue to confuse the law with what is right and treat your personal notions of morality as a justification to sap the freedom of your fellow Americans who disagree with you and your cause.