Now, I understand that, by filing requests for extensions, other states may be trying to drag the issue out until after the general election. Some state lawmakers don’t want to comply, but they’re afraid they’ll be accused of being “soft on terrorism” (or, even worse, breaking party ranks – horrors!) if they oppose it outright, so they’d rather stall in the hope that a new Congress and a new administration might repeal REAL ID and thereby solve the problem for them. But this solution, while pragmatic from a certain political point-of-view, is exacerbating the overall problem of federal usurpation. By filing for a compliance extension, states are playing by the federal government’s rules, and in doing so they are tacitly acknowledging the legitimacy of those rules (and the supremacy of those making them). On the other hand, the non-complying states are sending an entirely different message to
Enter Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer.
Schweitzer is not your typical Democrat. Indeed, he has been called the “antithesis of the Democrat stereotype.” In a 2006 article in the New York Times, it was said that Schweitzer has “seized the heartland imagery generally monopolized by Republicans,” and represents a new “Democratic brand of libertarian-tinged prairie populism” that may threaten the GOP’s traditional hold on the western states. I can’t support Schweitzer on every issue but I’ll take his brand of Democrat over Hillary or Obama anytime. For instance, on the topic of guns, Schweitzer has remarked that he owns “more than I need but less than I want,” and says, “In Montana we think gun control is hittin’ what you’re shootin’ at.”
It’s hard not to like a man who thinks that way.
Schweitzer is also a leading opponent of REAL ID, which he has called “another harebrained scheme, an unfunded mandate to tell us that our life is going to be better if we’ll just buckle under on some other kind of rule or regulation.” Among
Schweitzer’s impressive rhetoric stems from the fact that he possesses qualities that have become increasingly rare in American politics: namely, principles and guts. He has the courage of his convictions, and, God bless him, he’s doing what he can to inspire others to cultivate brains and backbones of their own.
On January 18, 2008, Schweitzer sent a letter to the governors of seventeen states, appealing for their help in stopping REAL ID. The following are some excerpts from the letter:
Last year, the Montana Legislature unanimously passed, and I signed, a bill to prevent our state from participating in Real ID…We recognized that Real ID was a major threat to the privacy, constitutional rights, and pocketbooks of ordinary Montanans...
Today, I am asking you to join with me in resisting the DHS coercion to comply with provisions of Real ID…I would like us to speak with one, unified voice and demand that Congress step in and fix this mess…
[DHS] Secretary Chertoff’s remarks yesterday, albeit about WHTI, not Real ID, reflect DHS continued disrespect for the serious and legitimate concerns of our citizens. I take great offense at this notion we should all simply “grow up.” Please do not accept the Faustian bargain of applying for the DHS extension. If we stand together, either DHS will blink or Congress will have to act to avoid havoc at our nation’s airports and federal courthouses.
According to the Associated Press, as of March 14, Schweitzer’s office had been flooded with a grand total of two replies, “both simply acknowledging receipt of the letter.” Tragically, this fact upholds my long-standing suspicion that, among
For his part, however, Schweitzer continues to soldier on.
On March 21,
Principles and guts, ladies and gentlemen. Principles and guts.
The battle over REAL ID is one that we cannot afford to lose. Its implementation would mark the beginning of a new era in
REAL ID will also become a patriotic shibboleth test and a law enforcement red flag. The Department of Homeland Security, working closely with law enforcement officials in collaborating – er, cooperating – states, will instruct officers to be on the look-out for vehicles with tags from non-complying states. Drivers of such vehicles will be pulled over more often, searched more often, and generally harassed and subjected to thuggery more often. Count on it. DHS and state officials may deny it – or not, in this age of brazen police-state tactics and intimidation – but, either way, it will happen. These people are on a witch hunt, and anyone who dares to challenge their methods is automatically under suspicion of having a broom and a pointy hat hidden away in his or her closet.
In a nutshell, REAL ID will, for the first time, give the federal government real power to destroy the lives of political dissenters; not by direct means, as this would assuredly spark a rebellion, but by indirect means. By simply denying an individual the ability to live a normal life. By blocking them in at every turn. By treating them like outcasts, if not virtual traitors. If you doubt that such things could ever happen here in
Not only can it happen here, it already has happened here. And it can and will happen again unless those in positions of responsibility, like Governor Brian Schweitzer, stand up to tyranny, look it in the eye, and call it what it is, even when it comes wrapped in red-white-and-blue packaging. Furthermore, such brave men and women will need the support – the very loud and public support – of every single American who cares enough about freedom to do something more than complain about its decline. The
There stands Schweitzer like a stone wall. Rally behind the Montanans!
Robert Hawes is the author of One Nation, Indivisible? A Study of Secession and the Constitution. This article, along with his past writings, can be found on his blog. He lives in