Only 27 percent of registered voters cast ballots in Kentucky's recent primary elections. Does this mean that the others take free, constitutional government for granted?
History shows that order and liberty are fragile and can quickly disappear. Some on the political right worry that it could happen something like this, as described in a fictional chapter from a future U.S. history textbook:
After the bitter 2014 elections Republicans controlled both the House of Representatives and Senate. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy died on Election Day.
Desperate to reshape the high court while Democrats still controlled the Senate, President Barack Obama immediately nominated a liberal replacement. Senate majority leader Harry Reid summoned the lame duck Senate into session and over Republican protests changed the rules so a simple majority could force a confirmation vote.
Liberals quickly had their long-coveted Supreme Court majority. It would soon prove crucial.
Obama had already undermined the constitutional separation of powers by refusing to enforce some laws, failing to defend others in court, making myriad changes to still more, and aggressively using executive orders when Congress would not. Now he demonstrated even greater disregard of the Republican legislature.
Internal Revenue Service targeting of conservative groups had failed, but Obama used other means of shutting off money to his ideological opponents. Meanwhile, wealthy liberals who bankrolled his favored causes, like George Soros and Tom Steyer, were left alone.
Obama also ratcheted up efforts to stifle conservative speech. He praised colleges that had formally or effectively disinvited conservative speakers like Ayaan Hirsi Ali or Condoleezza Rice and supported those who sought to silence opposing viewpoints.
Once a backer of traditional marriage himself, Obama now encouraged companies to follow Mozilla's example by forcing out executives who dared oppose gay marriage. The left now demonized even those who expressed differing perspectives only in private.
The Donald Sterling affair provided their template. Sterling's professional basketball team was taken from him after a girlfriend recorded and revealed a private conversation in which he made racist statements.
Not only were citizens now encouraged to expose those who said politically incorrect things, but the government's massive secret surveillance apparatus was used to monitor speech that ruling elites deemed improper.
Those opposing amnesty for illegal immigrants, supporting voter identification laws, resisting further redefinitions of marriage, or questioning climate change were identified, ostracized, and ridiculed with the help of compliant liberal media. Obama, the former community organizer, revived the Occupy Wall Street movement to put populist pressure on nonconformists.
An apathetic public, alienated by chronic underemployment, benumbed by legalized marijuana, enslaved to electronic devices, and content to live on government largesse, barely murmured. But this slumbering populace stirred to life when Obama urged more aggressive redistribution of wealth to mandate a middle class standard of living for all.
Attorney General Eric Holder ramped up his rhetoric of class and race conflict. Holder blamed society's ills on the so-called "one percent" and claimed that any resistance to Obama's agenda was racially motivated. Tensions grew and sometimes boiled over into violence in the streets.
Things got worse when Obama and congressional Republicans could not agree on a budget. The government shut down, benefit payments stopped, and protests engulfed the country.
Despite the recently negotiated Kerry-Zarif Treaty for which the American secretary of state had won a Nobel Peace Prize, Iran took America by surprise when it conducted a nuclear test. The mullahs issued an ultimatum that Israel either accede to Palestinian demands or cease to exist.
In a coordinated strike, China seized territories throughout the Pacific and Russia moved to recover the entirety of the former Soviet Union. Terrorist attacks took down much of the American Internet and power grid.
Obama proclaimed expansive emergency executive powers. With inflation ravaging the country from years of printing money and interest rates rapidly rising, he confiscated "critical" private assets and properties and took sole control over government spending.
The Supreme Court took a break from reinterpreting the First Amendment to restrict religious expression and political speech. It approved Obama's actions by one vote.
Addressing the nation, Obama said stability was paramount in such perilous times and declared it too dangerous to hold a presidential election under such circumstances. He claimed that his duty to defend the Constitution required him to temporarily suspend it.
Is such a political nightmare probable? No, at least not to the extreme extent of this doomsday scenario, but neither is the American republic immune from anything resembling it.
Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. The tough question is whether 27 percent voter turnout puts freedom at risk or whether there is greater danger from more participation by less informed and interested voters.
John David Dyche is a Louisville attorney and a political commentator for WDRB.com.
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