Following a presidential debate last fall, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton expressed outrage that Republican nominee Donald Trump had refused to commit to accepting the results of the upcoming election.
“To say you won’t respect the results of the election, that is a direct threat to our democracy,” Clinton said. “The peaceful transfer of power is one of the things that makes America America.”
She added, “It is not a joke. And look, some people are sore losers.”
Indeed they are, as demonstrated by the reaction of the American Left to the unexpected triumph of Trump in the November election. Since that time, they have churlishly refused to accept the outcome of the voting, arguing either that the Russians “hacked the election,” or that Trump failed to win the popular vote, or that they do not like this or that policy of Trump’s.
Now, whenever a Democratic Party candidate wins, any reluctance to support the winner is regarded as disloyal to the country itself. Back in 2008, in the aftermath of the win of then-Senator Barack Obama, conservative radio commentator Rush Limbaugh was asked, along with many other leading Americans, to offer a 400-word statement expressing his “hope for the Obama presidency.”
Limbaugh responded, “Okay, I’ll send you a response, but I don’t need 400 words; I need four: I hope he fails.” Many on the Left reacted with outrage, with some even suggesting that Limbaugh had committed “treason” by hoping an American president would fail. (Because of the overuse of the charge of treason by governments in world history, the framers of our Constitution defined the act extremely narrowly — as “making war against the United States,” or helping the enemies of the country, giving them aid and comfort.)
“See, here’s the point,” Limbaugh explained. “Everybody thinks it’s outrageous to say.… What is unfair about my saying I hope liberalism fails? Liberalism is our problem. Liberalism is what’s gotten us dangerously close to the precipice here. Why [would] I want more of it?”
But Limbaugh never suggested that his radio listeners refuse to pay their federal income taxes, as some on the Left are now recommending.
Why are “progressives,” who are ordinarily fervent supporters of America’s graduated progressive income tax (after all, it was their progressive political ancestors who pushed through the tax’s creation in 1913 with the 16th Amendment), advocating a tax revolt? For some, they say it is simply that they do not like President Trump’s policy positions, naming his desire to build a wall on the border with Mexico, or his disdain for the radical environmentalists, or some other such position.
Actress Mia Farrow vowed, “I refuse to pay a penny of my taxes toward Trump’s insane, insulting wall.”
Gloria Steinem has joined the movement, recalling her protest of the Vietnam War in 1968. “We refused to pay the 10 percent of our federal income tax dollars that funded the war in Vietnam, and included a letter to the IRS saying so.”
Her beef this time is with the proposal to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood, the nation’s chief abortion provider. A few argue that they should not pay their federal income taxes until Trump releases several years of his tax returns. Of course, millions of Americans dutifully pay their income taxes without releasing their returns to the general public, or even expecting anyone else to do so.
One of the more interesting anti-Trump tax protest movements is in California, where the leftist political leaders in the state legislature are supporting a refusal to send state tax receipts to the feds — in protest of Trump's suggestion that the federal government cut off the funding of the state’s “sanctuary cities” such as Los Angeles and San Francisco.
The National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee (NWTRCC) has stated that there is “renewed interest in war tax resistance following Trump’s inauguration.” One must wonder about the sincerity of the group, since little was heard from it while President Obama conducted bombing raids in foreign countries.
Many of these “anti-war” progressives cite the 19th century transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau as their inspiration. Thoreau famously spent a night in jail for refusing to pay a local tax, so as to protest against the Mexican War. Of course, in the 1840s, few Americans paid any taxes to the federal government, and local taxes were not used to finance the U.S. military in Mexico or anywhere else. However, it is instructive that Thoreau remains an idol for these modern-day leftists. His sister paid his tax so he could get out of jail. Even then, liberals expected others to pay their way.
What apparently galls the Left more than anything else is Trump’s failure to “win” the popular vote, instead taking the presidency through the constitutional method of winning a majority of the electoral vote. Mark Weston, author of The Runner-Up Presidency, has even urged the “approximately 65 million Democrats who voted for Hillary Clinton” to pledge that in the future, “if a Republican wins the presidency with fewer votes than a Democrat for the third time in our era, we won’t pay taxes to the federal government. No taxation without representation!”
Weston is incensed that while Trump won 46 percent of the popular vote, Clinton had 48 percent. It should be noted, of course, that neither candidate won the popular vote, since 52 percent of Americans voted for someone other than Clinton. It would seem that if one must win a majority of the electoral vote to be elected president, consistency would require that a candidate likewise win a majority of the popular vote to say that they “won the popular vote.”
Weston insists that there is nothing illegal about his proposal since it is only “hypothetical.” But, he added, “If the Republicans won’t help amend the Constitution so that America can resume being a democracy [sic], then Democrats, lacking the representation that supporters of a future popular vote winner ought to have in the executive branch, should not submit to paying taxes to the federal government.”
Instead, Weston proposes that the taxes owed by these millions of Democrats would be placed in a foreign “escrow” account, to be released at such time as 38 state legislatures have ratified “an acceptable Constitutional amendment” to abolish the Electoral College.
This would seem to be extortion; however, it does raise an interesting possibility that advocates of restoring our federal system of government should consider. If the millions of Clinton voters could be joined by the millions of Trump voters in not paying federal income taxes, the federal behemoth created by that federal income tax would implode.
Of course, leftists would balk at that idea. Without the federal income tax, the modern welfare state — a strong tool used by the Left to advance their progressive agenda — would collapse.
So, while this can all be taken as empty threats by the Left, it does illustrate their rank hypocrisy. When the Left's candidate wins, conservatives are expected to be happy and supportive; but when a conservative candidate wins, the Left refuses to accept the outcome of the election.
The first presidential election in which there was a true “transfer of power” came in 1801, when Thomas Jefferson defeated the incumbent President John Adams. Adams was certainly not happy about the outcome — he even left town before Jefferson’s inaugural ceremony — but the former president did not call for anyone to put his tax payments in escrow until such time as “democracy” was restored.
One reason that neither Adams nor Jefferson would have called for a restoration of “democracy” is because both men knew our Constitution did not create a democracy (rule by majority), but rather a republic (rule by law). What the Left desires is not to “restore” our form of government, but rather to transform it.
And anytime they fail to accomplish that objective, they are sure to repeat their hypocritical protests.
Steve Byas is a professor of history and government at Randall University in Moore, Oklahoma, and the author of History’s Greatest Libels, a challenge to what he considers the unfair treatment of historical figures such as Christopher Columbus, Marie Antoinette, and Joseph McCarthy.