Help Wanted: Leaders Willing to Stand Up to Washington Bullies

Photo credit: Mr. TinDC via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)
Photo credit: Mr. TinDC via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Attorney General Loretta Lynch proclaims that moms and dads who don’t want their little girls forced to share restrooms with grown men are just reincarnated Bull Connors. Presumably Lynch speaks for the man she worships — or rather works for — who is blowing past all constitutional and statutory boundaries to complete his fundamental transformation of America before he assumes the title of Emperor Emeritus.

But perhaps to their surprise, Obama and Lynch are facing some pushback. First, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory failed to roll over under the federal threats and instead challenged the lawless intimidation tactics in court. Now a group of students from the University of North Carolina, which is also in the Justice Department’s crosshairs, have filed their own lawsuit claiming that the federal government may not force them to sacrifice their personal privacy in order to pursue their education.

Our federal overlords can be forgiven for assuming that all state and local officials would simply surrender to their dictates rather than assume a standing position and fight back. After all, the education wars of the last few years have proven that too many elected officials are frightened of the feds — and especially terrified that exercising any constitutional autonomy will endanger federal money. We can’t ditch the Common Core national standards or the tests or anything else the feds want, this argument goes, because they might cut our funding. In a battle between our children’s education and the almighty dollar, the kids will always come in a distant second.

This fear paralyzes even officials who formerly were outspoken on the right side of the issue. For example, Governor Charlie Baker of Massachusetts denounced Common Core before he was elected, but now that he has the power to actually do something about the shameful dumbing-down of the Massachusetts standards with Common Core, he hems and haws on the sidelines.

We see this dynamic also in the bathroom battle. Frau Lynch decrees that the law says something it manifestly doesn’t say (for example, that Title IX requires schools to open up their restrooms and locker rooms), and local officials roll over. Rather than actually read the law and the cases decided under it, and tell the Justice Department to go pound sand, these officials just shrug their shoulders and say, ‘well, what can you do?’ For cases in point, see the superintendent of the Fort Worth schools in Texas, who installed a horribly inappropriate and dangerous policy, and school-district attorneys in Georgia, who seem to accept federal fiction as gospel.

The cowardly officials surely don’t see themselves as out to hurt children by undermining either their education or their personal privacy. They probably rationalize their behavior by counting all those zeroes on the federal check and telling themselves the children will suffer if there are fewer of them. But what they’re really teaching children is that money is everything, and that no action is too harmful or too demeaning to protect the financial flow.

They simply don’t have the courage to stand up for what’s right and necessary. As C.S. Lewis said, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” A virtue without the courage to exercise it is meaningless.

Obama and his henchmen have been counting on this lack of courage for years, and generally speaking they’ve been rewarded. But now there are glimmers of an awakening. Governor McCrory sues; UNC students sue; Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick demands the resignation of the craven Fort Worth superintendent. Could this be the moment when Americans remember what it means to be an American?

Jane Robbins is an attorney and a senior fellow with the American Principles Project.