Lest too much be read into its asking, let’s stipulate that nothing extraordinary be inferred from the question of when government becomes the enemy of the people. An appropriate question for today, it would be no less appropriate were the president Abraham Lincoln and Mother Teresa the former secretary of state.
A short answer is that government becomes the enemy of the people when government chooses to regard substantial numbers of the people as its enemy.
For these purposes, define “enemy” as an individual or group selected for adverse attention from harassment or defamation at a minimum to—at a maximum, one hopes, imprisonment—for appearing to interfere with a comparatively benign government or for simply displeasing a malicious one.
What relevant things have we recently learned? A single day last week revealed the following:
Dinesh D’Souza, formerly of National Review and co-producer of a documentary examining the current president’s life and career, was arrested for alleged campaign finance violations in a U.S. Senate contest. We have never heard of anyone arrested—handcuffed—for campaign finance civil violations.
Another conservative activist, known for uncovering malfeasance by Liberal organizations, claimed he and his associates have been under legal harassment by the Democrats who run New York State.
Copping a snide attitude, even the New York Times felt compelled to report that Conservatives in Hollywood are now targeted by an ever more aggressively hostile Internal Revenue Service.
People who have lived all their lives in this country are appropriately reluctant to believe the justice system and administrative bureaucracies would tolerate being used as political police. So one more question: At what point does that reluctance cease to identify one as a responsible citizen and mark him as easy prey?