I remember, when I was a kid, the question often being asked in Social Studies class, “How could the Nazis have risen to power in a democratic system?” At the time, the question was asked with a great deal of mystery, as if the creation of a despotic, totalitarian regime like like the Third Reich would be unimaginable in today’s world.
That naive illusion is dashed to pieces by a recent poll commissioned by the Associated Press. In this poll, 42 percent of Americans say that the federal government should be able to spy against Americans without even getting a search warrant to do so. In the AP article accompanying the reporting of this poll, a 32 year-old Republican from Sacramento is quoted as saying, “I think our security is so important that we don’t need warrants. If you’re doing something we shouldn’t be doing, then you ought to be caught.”
Hear that? According to these people, in America, we just don’t need search warrants any more, because the need to feel secure is more important than liberty. Without the restraint of search warrants, of course, the police, the FBI, and other government agents would be free to enter your home at any time, search you and your property without notice and without cause, and you wouldn’t be able to do a thing to stop it.
It’s lucky that, for now, 56 percent of Americans believe that search warrants should be required, in order to stop the police state from trampling over its citizens. Still, I’d like that warrant support number to be a bit higher. It does not take a lot of imagination to see how, with a frightening event like a new terrorist attack or, say, the burning of the Reichstag, would elevate support for the revocation of search warrants from 42 percent to over 50 percent.
How close is America to totalitarianism? I want you to pick up your left hand in front of your computer screen, and put your thumb and index finger about a half-inch apart. See that space in between? We’re that close.