Perhaps the most compelling justification for Common Law and the Anglo-Saxon tradition of rule of law does not come from Montesquieu, not from Locke, but from “A Man for All Seasons.” One scene in particular comes to mind, one of the characters (More) refuses to submit to the lawless demands of some of the other characters and makes an impassioned argument for rule of law. I will let Robert Bolt’s scene speak for itself:
Roper: So now you’d give the Devil benefit of law!
More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
Roper: I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you — where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast — man’s laws, not God’s — and if you cut them down — and you’re just the man to do it — d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.
More stands up for law over passion, he refuses to submit to the whims of fallible and short-sighted men and instead defends the central idea that underpins rule of law; that law protects us from zealots, and for the purpose of this article, progressive zealots.
Before my liberal friends get up in arms on my Facebook feed, I will make the necessary disclaimer of “Not all leftists” and clarify that I am talking about the liberal/progressive mainstream and media, obviously not everyone on the left is what I will describe in this article. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, we can discuss liberal hypocrisy. Fellow conservatives, let’s just admit something; we practiced obstructionism when Obama was president, and the Democrats are doing it now that Trump is president. Some might think that means we have no moral authority to lecture them, but there is one difference; We never advocated for Jacobinism and lawlessness. That is not a minor disclaimer or a small difference, that is a defining difference between us and them.
The conservative mainstream only utilized lawful obstruction against the ruling government such as peaceful protest, filibusters, and voting against the liberal agenda in congress. The conservative mainstream (we will define mainstream as widely respected conservative news outlets and politicians) seldom, if ever, defended violence against our opponents, advocated for impeaching the president based on tenuous evidence, violent insurrection, suppression of free speech, or a host of other things that the mainstream left has advocated for the past year or two. With that in mind, we can also admit that within the context of a civilized society, that makes us better people. You shouldn’t feel guilty for admitting this, if authors from well respected left wing news outlets like Politico can call our politicians terrorists for using the lawfully delegated power of the purse, we can certainly throw that back in their face when they think aloud about assassinating the President, rioting and beating up political opponents, impeaching Trump “Now, without unnecessary delay” based on tenuous evidence, and so forth. While there are only three articles here to warrant my argument, I assure you that if you google “Trump impeachment,” or “Trump assassination,” they abound. They don’t just come from pundits either, they have come from politicians on the left, and the favored candidate to be the next Chairman of the Democratic Party.
So, while there are voices on the left who have denounced this juvenile, destructive, and uncivilized behavior, who want a forward-looking Democratic party that attempts to reconnect with voters instead of a scorched Earth strategy, they are becoming a minority in the party. I will not deny for a moment that there isn’t partisan hackery among conservatives or the Republican party (I occasionally indulge myself to a fault), but there has not been a time in recent memory where one party has become so zealous, self-satisfied, and irresponsible that they put their ideology above the law and civilization. I am proud to be part of the Anglo-Saxon tradition of rule of law, a tradition that humbles all to make our passions and whims subservient to the law and our institutions. We have survived for roughly 250 years on that basis. We are not lawless Jacobins. We are better than this; not just conservatives, all of us.