White House war on constitutional freedoms is key issue in US today

By Terry Evans
September 26, 2022

Constitutional freedoms won in blood that are essential for working people are under a concerted assault today from President Joseph Biden’s White House, using the Justice Department, anti-working-class laws like the Espionage Act, and the FBI, Washington’s political police, to spearhead the attack.

In recent Biden speeches, press conferences by congressional Democrats and Never-Trump Republicans alike, and shrill editorials in the liberal press, the charge is advanced that former President Donald Trump is a threat to national security. And they’ve widened their witch hunt to target the tens of millions of those Biden calls “MAGA Republicans,” who elected Trump. Biden claims they’re “semi-fascists.”

A way must be found to drive Trump out of politics, the administration insists, and keep those millions of workers from any further influence.

Workers and our unions have a big stake in unconditionally combating every assault on constitutional freedom, regardless who today’s target might be. Rights won from mighty battles in the First and Second American Revolutions provide vital protections from government interference with free speech and assembly, freedom to worship, against unreasonable search and seizure and more. These rights are crucial for working people whenever we organize to defend ourselves. Defending these liberties is at the center of the class struggle today.

During the FBI’s raid on Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Florida estate, his attorneys were barred from being present to observe what FBI agents searched and what they took. In response to a motion by Trump, Judge Aileen Cannon appointed a third party to review what the FBI made off with so she could rule on the files’ disposition. Her order temporarily blocks the Justice Department from using what was seized as fodder in its criminal probe against the former president. For weeks the press has broadcast anonymous leaks, purporting to reveal shocking tidbits in the material.

Biden’s Justice Department has appealed Cannon’s decision, saying a third party review will do “irreparable harm” to “national security,” and hinder the “activities” of the FBI. For decades protecting “national security” has been a central pretext used by the capitalist rulers for unleashing the FBI to harass, spy on, smear and frame up militant workers, Socialist Workers Party members, Black rights fighters and opponents of Washington’s wars.

Democrats are desperate to keep their hold on Congress this year, and the White House in 2024. They hope that by making Trump the central issue in the election — not the growing economic and social crisis facing working people — they can win. This would open up even greater attacks on a Constitution they call racist, as well as discussion on proposals to abolish the Senate and enlarge and pack the Supreme Court with like-minded judges.

Liberals are convinced their intelligence and cosmopolitan “woke” sophistication give them authority to make decisions for working people. They fear the fact that more of us have seen through the capitalist two-party shell game.

Biden’s war on ‘MAGA Republicans’

Biden used a Sept. 8 address to the Democratic National Committee to pursue his demonization of big swathes of the U.S. population, repeating that MAGA Republicans “threaten our very democracy.” Hillary Clinton demanded Republicans “purge their party of the disease.”

With U.S. Marines on either side of him the previous week, Biden told a crowd at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall that MAGA Republicans are a “clear and present danger.”

That very phrase was first used by Judge Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., when the Supreme Court upheld the conviction under the Espionage Act of Socialist Party member Charles Schenck in 1919. Schenck was imprisoned for handing out flyers opposing the draft during the first imperialist world war. The judge justified the verdict, saying “free speech would not protect a man” who creates “a clear and present danger.”

Biden’s insistence that tens of millions of working people are a “clear and present danger” throws out free speech protections and signals his willingness to unleash the power of the state against those who stand in the Democrats’ way.

A landmark decision protecting and extending the rights of all was won by the Socialist Workers Party in its 1973 lawsuit against the FBI. In one part of his 1986 ruling in that case, Judge Thomas Griesa said government appeals to “national security” cannot be used to violate constitutional rights, exactly what the FBI had done over decades with its use of burglaries, wiretaps, undercover informers and Cointelpro disruption operations against the party.

The SWP’s revolutionary view and activity were fully protected by the Constitution, he ruled.

Democrats are also opening a new round of show-trial “hearings” into the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol to advance their assault on rights. About 40 subpoenas were issued by the Justice Department last week against Trump’s associates, ordering their phones and other electronic devices seized.

This crusade by the White House is far from over.