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Bob Ehrlich: I Had No Idea How Literally Dems Would Take 'Rules for Thee but Not for Me'

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Many of you recall Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America.” That campaign document comprised ten promises that then-Minority Whip Newt Gingrich and his team thought would prove popular with the voting public.

History reflects that Newt was spot on as the GOP racked up a net gain of 54 House seats in that 1994 cycle. A historic GOP majority was thereby born, ending 40 years of a Democratic majority few thought would ever end.

I was a member of that “majority maker” class, running and winning in a suburban House district after eight years in the Maryland legislature.

Of all the great memories from that time, I have a distinct recollection as to the most popular item of the Contract: that Congress would no longer exempt itself from the laws it imposed on the American people. On the stump, that promise was always a guaranteed applause line.

No real surprise here. Such a populist initiative was fully compatible with the revolutionary tide of the times.

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Indeed, the indictment we lodged against the four-decades-old Democratic establishment was that it had grown too stale, too corrupt, too far removed from the average American. What better proof than an unwillingness to abide by the same laws every other American was forced to live under?

I was thinking about that old promise while catching up on the grassroots recall campaign being waged against progressive California Gov. Gavin Newsom. His no-holds-barred COVID lockdown strategy has been wildly unsuccessful, and people (and businesses) are fleeing his state by the thousands.

But it was his well-reported maskless dinner at the uber-elegant French Laundry at the height of the pandemic that has given the recall movement a fresh dose of momentum.

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There are, of course, numerous other media stories in the same vein. There was Speaker Pelosi captured maskless on video at her San Francisco hair salon. And Huntington Beach, California, Mayor Pro Tem Tito Ortiz appearing maskless at a food distribution center.

And then there was Chicago Teachers Union leader Sarah Chambers tweeting maskless from her Caribbean vacation — while parents of Chicago public school students continue to wait on a return-to-class plan for their children.

Geez, there was even a maskless Joe Biden celebrating his inaugural at the Lincoln Memorial.

One might conclude the media possess little sympathy for masklessness, which would be true with one important exception: Those who chose to loot and riot and burn during the tumult of last summer. Here, a new media narrative was created along the lines of civil disobedience trumping pandemic safety. And, of course, if you disagree, you are clearly a racist.

This exception, along with the pitiful, sometimes laughable effort to minimize riot-generated damage (“mostly peaceful protests”), does not play well in middle America. In fact, those of us who live between the coasts are only too aware of the free passes and selective reporting regularly engaged in by the progressive media.

Accordingly, I doubt that a majority of Americans will accept lockdowns and censorship in the long term. America will not stand for it. Our country is (still) full of people for whom liberty remains an uncompromisable value.

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But the ultimate reason why centralized control will fail is found in the daily headlines, in which the above-cited “let them eat cake” leftists (think of climate adviser John Kerry flying around in his private jet) just can’t stop exempting themselves from the same rules, regulations, laws, mandates and social norms they so willingly employ against the peasants … err, people. You know, the ones who fly commercial.

Back to the familiar credo: rules for thee but not for me. We all know how it ends.

I just didn’t think the progressive leadership would take the advice so literally.

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.