Between Compliance and Civil Disobedience

Do you consider yourself politically active? Ten years ago, that likely would have meant reading the news, voting in local elections, or volunteering to support policy initiatives or candidates. Now, it often means taking to the streets—on foot or in an 18-wheeler—to demand immediate change. 

Backward though it may seem, civil disobedience and regular unrest have now become central to our polity. This is a symptom of a breach of trust from the top down, so it’s admirable when people protest and resist. But sometimes the people whose policies we protest declare any resistance to be “unauthorized.” Before you know it, being politically active can put you on the wrong side of the law. 

This happened recently when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada invoked the Emergencies Act to outlaw the ongoing trucker protest against his government’s vaccine mandates. Last year, average Americans faced similar sanctions when the National School Board Association and the Department of Justice colluded to brand concerned parents domestic terrorists. The peaceful protestors arrested on the streets of Ottawa and the families in Fairfax who faced intimidation from the federal government are icons of courage. 

Understandably, not everyone—even the politically active—is ready to stand on the front lines of our new and more dangerous culture war. This is especially true for parents and senior citizens who don’t want to put themselves in harm’s way. 

We can’t vote our way out of our current predicament, but that doesn’t mean civic engagement is fruitless. All Americans have the ability and the duty to use the legal tools our forebears gave us to fight back against corrupt, petty tyrants. 

Intelligence gathering is the key to victory, and American citizens benefit from some of the world’s strongest open-source transparency laws. The only trouble is they’re rarely used by the average American. You don’t have to be a trained attorney investigating a high-profile case like the Russiagate spying scandal in order to file an open records request. You have all you need to uncover conflicts of interest and financial mismanagement. You can stop crooked ideologues from “failing up” into an agency, state legislature, university, or any other institution. 

Why aren’t you? 

From federal agency secretaries to local school board members, every taxpayer-funded email, budget proposal, and lunch receipt that originates from the bureaucracy is subject to taxpayers’ review. You don’t need “experts” to handle your civic duty—you yourself must hold our leaders accountable. Read the statutes and court decisions that set the standards of behavior for your elected and appointed representatives, then submit well-crafted open records requests to ensure those laws are followed. When government cronyism protects the corrupt, we must crowdsource the enforcement of the law and force self-dealing bureaucrats out. 

This is smart populism: one well-placed FOIA request can do more than a huge rally. 

The citizen gadfly role is especially suitable for retired Americans with the time to invest. Instead of posting opinions online, senior citizens should become local heroes, like Kirk Allen and John Kraft of southern Illinois. Rather than resign themselves to living in the most corrupt state in the country, these two military veterans made a hobby out of pursuing those who try to use public service for their own gain. Since 2011, their open records requests, lawsuits, journalism, and even citizens’ arrests have driven 732 government officials out of office, elicited court rulings against illegal COVID mandates, and recouped millions in taxpayer dollars. Now they train thousands of others to do the same.

Even busy parents must join the fight to protect their children. Pandemic school lockdowns and public health mandates have galvanized moms and dads to expose corrupt municipal leaders, keep their local school boards in check, and run for local office themselves. Parents can follow the lead of Christopher Rufo, for example, who organizes resistance against critical race theory in school curricula. He has led thousands of parents to local victories across the country, including ending a program in North Carolina last month that taught white inferiority to disabled preschoolers. 

As citizens of the greatest country on earth, we haven’t fully tapped the other weapons at our disposal to resist tyranny. We need to think locally. Most state legislators, for example, don’t have their heads in the clouds of national politics. They can accomplish much, even against hostile governors, using tactics like budget negotiations, supermajorities, and constitutional amendments.

Other officeholders, including judges, district attorneys, and sheriffs, are much easier to elect or hold accountable than members of Congress or mayors. They have the power to strike down, not enforce, and otherwise impede unlawful and immoral mandates. George Soros and his Super PACs target these local offices heavily. We should too. These local public servants will become the front line against growing anarcho-tyranny, the selective persecution of law-abiding citizens while crime runs rampant.

Americans who want to be politically active in such troubled times must recognize our power and start using it tactically. Citizens must drive petty tyrants out of their undeserved positions of authority, reestablish American values in our schools and police departments, and install state and local officials with integrity and fortitude. We all appreciate those who take to the streets, but if you can’t join in, don’t just throw up your hands. The American system offers many ways to redress our grievances.


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