There have been plenty of bad policy ideas in the wake of the Orlando nightclub shooting last Sunday. But yesterday on “Fox and Friends,” former House speaker Newt Gingrich took home the prize for the worst suggestion so far.
Gingrich suggested bringing back the House Un-American Activities Committee.
HUAC, as it’s abbreviated, was formed in 1938 ostensibly to investigate communist and fascist groups on American soil. However, critics even then accused HUAC of targeting groups that supported then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt in order to discredit him.
After the end of World War II and the beginning of the Cold War, HUAC investigated suspected communists in government and in the entertainment industry. Critics denounced these investigations as “witch hunts” against citizens who expressed their political beliefs. In 1975, HUAC was abolished after a two-decade-long decline in relevance.
Bringing back a 21st-century HUAC would create the same type of witch hunts and circus atmosphere, made worse by social media and 24-hour cable news. It would give a body of Congress the ability to ruin the lives of Americans merely for expressing unpopular political views.
This is true, no matter who is in charge of Congress. What’s to stop a Democratic-controlled House from targeting tea party activists as domestic terrorists?
If the purpose of the new HUAC is to examine whether or not the government is doing enough to combat terrorism, there are several other committees that already have that oversight. The House Judiciary Committee, House Armed Services Committee, and House Intelligence Committee have partial oversight on terrorism matters. There’s also a House Committee on Homeland Security that has oversight over domestic security.
It would be easy to dismiss Newt’s suggestion as a one-off bad idea if it came from someone less prominent than Gingrich. Unfortunately, this is just one more example of how increasingly authoritarian the Republican Party has become at the national level.
Its nominee for president, Donald Trump, is running on a platform of banning immigration from Muslim countries, deporting all illegal immigrants, cracking down on the free press, and threatening protesters. He spent much of last week attacking the judge presiding over his Trump University fraud trial because the jurist in question is of Mexican heritage. Just yesterday, Trump took aim at both the right to bear arms and the right to due process:
It’s not hyperbole to call Trump an enemy of the Constitution. But Republicans decided to nominate him anyway.
The Republican Party is heading down a very dangerous path this election year. It needs to turn back before the country pays the price with lost liberties.