Nearly five years ago, a Republican U.S. Senate candidate named Sharron Angle used a phrase that was as memorable as it was alarming: her political vision included "Second Amendment remedies." At the time, Angle's point was that if conservatives disapproved of policies adopted by elected officials, Americans might want to consider armed violence against their own country.
We learned last year that Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), before her election, endorsed a similar perspective. The right-wing Iowan said at an NRA event that she carries a firearm "virtually everywhere," in case she needs to defend herself "from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important."
This year, it's Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) who's dipping his toes in the same waters. Sahil Kapur reported yesterday that the far-right presidential candidate is taking the "uncommon" view that the Second Amendment "includes a right to revolt against government tyranny."
"The 2nd Amendment to the Constitution isn't for just protecting hunting rights, and it's not only to safeguard your right to target practice. It is a Constitutional right to protect your children, your family, your home, our lives, and to serve as the ultimate check against governmental tyranny -- for the protection of liberty," Cruz wrote to supporters in a fundraising email on Thursday, under the subject line "2nd Amendment against tyranny." This "insurrectionist" argument, as Second Amendment expert and UCLA law professor Adam Winkler calls it, is popular among passionate gun owners and members of the National Rifle Association. But major party candidates for president don't often venture there.
Winkler told TPM, "It's pretty rare for a presidential candidate to support the right of the people to revolt against the government."
At least it used to be. In the American mainstream, when the people are dissatisfied with the government's direction, we don't need to take up arms or threaten violence -- we have elections. Your right to vote exists; your right to armed conflict against Americans does not.
Cruz's radicalism was enough to draw a rebuke from a fellow Republican and likely White House rival.
"Well, we tried that once in South Carolina. I wouldn't go down that road again," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told TPM, in an apparent reference to the Civil War. "I think an informed electorate is probably a better check than, you know, guns in the streets."
Graham added he's "not looking for an insurrection."
Just so we're clear, we've reached the point in Republican politics at which presidential candidates take opposing sides on Americans' right to an armed insurrection against the United States.
Or put another way, Lindsey Graham should probably be considered a "moderate" because the senator -- who boasts of his "A" rating from the NRA -- believes your gun rights don't include the right to a violent rebellion.