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Bob Ehrlich: There Is Common Ground Between Right and Left - The Rejection of Authoritarian Censorship

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The right half of a divided America continues in a state of frustration. It has been a year since its world was turned upside-down in what can now, in retrospect, be classified as the recipe for a perfect storm.

Take a polarized America, sprinkle in one unorthodox tweet-happy president in an election year, toss in the daily death toll and terror of a worldwide pandemic, add a heavy pour of blood-in-the-water politicizing after a real-time live video death in Minneapolis that incorporated race and police, and top it off with a protest-turned deadly riot in the halls of our Capitol building — and there you have it.

One year ago, few experts foresaw the dramatic impact of COVID-19. Indeed, the expert class spent the first months of the pandemic soft-peddling the risk. Recall the WHO’s early announcement that the Chinese communists had everything under control, Dr. Anthony Fauci’s early firm assurances that masks would not be necessary and Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s late February plea for tourists to visit San Francisco’s Chinatown.

Of course, these and other similar assurances were made to disappear from public consciousness during the course of the 2020 campaign. Mr. Trump simply had to go — and the establishment media would do everything in its power to ensure that a “negligent” response to COVID, irrespective of its reasonability and inarguable successes, would be its dominant narrative all the way through to Nov. 3.

The death of George Floyd was the second dramatic event, as large and sometimes riotous protests broke out in a number of America’s largest cities. Demands to “defund the police” were heard, sometimes uttered and later denied by elected officials. Yet the political class was largely silent, taken aback by the vehemence of the protests and the breadth of a re-energized indictment of an allegedly “racist” country.

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But the anger was nothing like “Occupy Wall Street” — the last social protest movement to gain cultural traction. This time, Wall Street joined the dissenters, as did Big Tech and large segments of corporate America.

Demands for a national conversation on race were (once again) raised. But how would a new enthusiasm for cancel culture and censorship fit into a “reckoning” on America’s sometimes ugly history of racial injustice?

And then there came Jan. 6, when a couple hundred thousand Americans showed up in Washington to express their dissatisfaction with vote counts in a number of selected swing states, and a small group of criminals breached the Capitol and wreaked havoc in its halls. An unnerved public made clear its disgust with the actions of the trespassers. There was simply no justification for the criminality involved.

But this is political Washington, where former Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel’s infamous admonition, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste” is always in vogue.

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And so today Capitol Hill looks more like an armed camp — with an overwhelming National Guard presence that may extend into the summer. To boot, at least some pundits (and members of Congress) have sought to impute the illegal actions of the few to a political movement that garnered over 74 million votes in the last election.

Eight weeks into the Biden administration there are signs increasing numbers of Americans are beginning to say, “enough.”

After a year of school shutdowns, parent power is exerting itself, often over the objections of tunnel-visioned teachers unions and authoritarian executives.

The momentum is building because the science has been clear for quite some time that school-aged kids are at minimal risk of COVID — and that there are serious and manifest mental health consequences to extended school lockdowns.

Similarly, entrepreneurs are increasingly going to court — sometimes even outright bravely rejecting lockdown orders — in order to save their small businesses. And their patrons in even the bluest jurisdictions are grateful. Witness the bipartisan recall effort directed at the lockdown-friendly Gavin Newsom in California.

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And then there are the better-late-than-never warnings from free-speech liberals. (Witness Glenn Greenwald’s and Naomi Wolf’s compelling interviews on Tucker Carlson in recent weeks).

As cancel culture continues to eat its own, expect more anti-authoritarian speech-friendly liberals to speak out. After all, such is the most basic common ground between right and left.

Indeed, a bridge too far on censorship is the last thing we need if there is to be real engagement on continuing questions of race and class and freedom in America.

The views expressed in this opinion article are those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website. If you are interested in contributing an Op-Ed to The Western Journal, you can learn about our submission guidelines and process here.

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Robert Ehrlich is a former governor of Maryland as well as a former U.S. congressman and state legislator. He is the author of “Bet You Didn’t See That One Coming: Obama, Trump, and the End of Washington’s Regular Order,” in addition to “Turn This Car Around,” “America: Hope for Change" and “Turning Point.” Ehrlich is currently a counsel at the firm of King & Spalding in Washington, D.C.