Sharron Angle, Responsible Leadership, and the Unforgivable

It all comes down to trust.

There are some things candidates for office do or say that render them permanently untrustworthy, and no apologies, however well-crafted and sincere, can change it. That is because there are some ethical boundaries a trustworthy individual literally will never cross. For example, Richard Blumenthal’s repeated claims that he was a Vietnam combat veteran fall below the minimum level of integrity, respect and honesty required for trustworthiness. Former Senator John Edwards has lied so often in public and private that no reasonable person should trust him to hold a leadership position.

Sharron Angle, the Tea Party darling who will be opposing Sen. Harry Reid for the Nevada Senate seat in November, also falls beneath that minimum level. This is not because of her hard, hard right positions advocating the abolishment of government-run Social Security, Medicare and the Department of Education. Those are legitimate topics for debate. But a recent interview with conservative radio talk show host Lars Larson has come to light in which Angle, then the longest of shots to win the Nevada Republican primary, said this:

“You know, our Founding Fathers, they put that Second Amendment in there for a good reason and that was for the people to protect themselves against a tyrannical government. And in fact Thomas Jefferson said it’s good for a country to have a revolution every 20 years. I hope that’s not where we’re going, but, you know, if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying my goodness what can we do to turn this country around? I’ll tell you the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out.”


Disqualified. This is irresponsible, reckless, rash, unfair, imprudent, anti-democratic, and a breach of the duties of citizenship. Promoting, advocating, or endorsing armed rebellion is deeply offensive to the principles of a republic. Angle’s statement signals an unacceptable and dangerous deficit of perspective, depth, respect for differing views, and willingness to compromise. Like the arrogant and misguided liberals who moved to Canada upon the re-election of George W. Bush, conservatives who threaten armed insurrection only support the American system of government when they agree with the results. Their basic contempt for the process leads them to a “my way or else” stance. Such people do not belong in a democratic legislature. Citizens have a duty to fight within the system, not outside it.

Angle’s use of Jefferson’s quote is either ignorant or dishonest. Jefferson wrote and said a lot of things that have proven to be wrong, and that particular quote in favor of revolution, which is from a letter he wrote in 1787, was proven facile and naive within his lifetime:  the French Revolution that Jefferson cheered became a bloodbath and a national nightmare. The same Jefferson sentiments Angle cited with approval to Larson were used to justify the Confederacy.  Jefferson was intelligent, and anyone who thinks that the events of past 230 years wouldn’t have convinced him of the insanity of wishing for a revolution every twenty years is clearly not.

Angle is not alone in her irresponsible delusions. Some conservative talk radio hosts, notably Monica Crowley and Mark Levin, have been darkly suggesting that armed rebellion may be the only way to stop the Obama “regime,” a snide slur coined by Rush Limbaugh implying that Obama holds autocratic power. They are not running for high office, however. Angle is, and no candidate who threatens violence if national policy doesn’t go in the “right” direction can be trusted with power.

Few U.S. Senators deserve defeat more than Harry Reid, who is dishonest, uncivil, disrespectful of process, secretive and hyper-partisan. He is, however, committed to working within the system, and will not try to incite an armed mob if he doesn’t get his way. That makes him more trustworthy, by far, than Sharron Angle.

11 thoughts on “Sharron Angle, Responsible Leadership, and the Unforgivable

  1. Sheesh. There’s nothing else to say, really.

    She’s correct about the function of the second amendment, I suppose. My brother and I are both driven nuts when people say that the 2nd Amendment is now unnecessary. Thankfully, if it ever is abolished, those who take the 2nd Amendment seriously would probably incite the revolt that the 2nd Amendment is designed to protect (not that anyone who isn’t crazy wants this to happen, nor was this probably a deliberate design decision on the part of the founding fathers.)

    • I agree about the 2nd Amendment: the government stripping citizenry of the ability to protect themselves is dangerous….not that we have to have the right to have Uzis. And if those lizard people from V take over, I’ll be ready to hit the hills and start the guerrilla raids on the scaly bastards. But Harry Reid and Barack Obama are not lizards.
      (Nancy Pelosi, I’m not so sure about…)

  2. At first glance, I might be inclined to believe that Ms. Angle’s statement was made “in the moment.” She’s popular, she’s being interviewed by someone who probably largely agrees with her, it’s the 2nd Amendment, Thomas Jefferson, all that. Sometimes people get a little too fired up and, with the words rolling, and the person at the other mic nodding in agreement, that one extra sentence, that little addendum that goes over the top, comes spewing out.

    Part of me tends to think that, in many cases, it’s pardonable. It’s the sword of extemporaneous speaking.


    There’s another part of me that remembers so well a famous phrase…”From the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.”

    Does Ms. Angle believe in her heart that shooting an opponent (even if she doesn’t pull the trigger) is a viable alternative? Does she believe this is what Jefferson was endorsing? What would her true (inner) reaction be if someone actually carried that out?

    Incidentally, Thomas Jefferson’s comments in 1787 were wrong. Revolutions every 20 years are NOT good. In fact, that may be way too long without one, and maybe the Founder knew it. That’s why they gathered in Philadelphia that summer and decided on lawful revolutions every 2, 4, and 6 years. The Fathers called them “elections.”

    The peaceful transfer of power from one administration to another is what they sought…and it’s what we’ve had for 230+ years.

    That probably would have been the better “angle” for this candidate to have emphasized…a revolution at the ballot box.

    Anyways, I’ve been visiting since the Jim Joyce piece, and there’s so much good stuff to read and ponder.

    Great work!


    • Thanks, Joel, and a great point about what constitutes a “revolution” in a democracy. At the time Jefferson made his statement, there were no representative democracies for him to refer to.

      You kind words are especially appreciated as I am under siege by one of my periodic critics who accuses me of “imposing my values” simply by stating them. Presumably most readers understand that the objective is to provoke thought from an ethical perspective, and not to necessarily be “right.”

  3. Sharron Angle is the kind of nutball that gives all the Tea Party-ers a bad name. What if Angle was black??

    Couldn’t misuse Jefferson then, could she? Couldn’t have the right look the other way, could she?

    I believe in free speech all right, but IGNORANT free speech has to be seen and called for what it is, and regardless of Angle’s other (if there are any) positives, this comment puts her out of the running for any responsible position. Too bad for the Tea Party. I like a lot of what they have to say. Does the term “vetting” come to mind?

  4. Even Thomas Jefferson was given to hyperbole once in a while in making a point. That “20 year revolution” thing being an excellent example. Similarly, Sharron Angle obviously just put it badly about “taking out” Harry Reid. She’ll have to learn care about the context of public statements!

    • Yeah, I almost mentioned that, but gave her the benefit of the doubt. When you’re talking about guns and revolution, saying you need to “take out” a U.S. Senator is a little alarming. At least she didn’t say “rub out”…

  5. I think you all have misunderstood her.
    All that she meant was that she thought he was cute and wanted to take him out (on a date).

    Seriously though, how many people honestly think the American population has the ability to overthrow the government today? My bolt action hunting rifle with its four shot clip and my complete lack of military training wouldn’t last long against any of our trained soldiers.

    And 2nd Amendment remedies? Is that just shooting politicians (at least the ones they disagree with), or does that include the firefighters, police, teachers, and everyone else in our communities that works for the government? A friend of mine works for the IRS. Does he get included as well? When people quote Jefferson and discuss revolts and watering the tree of liberty do they consider the ramifications of a revolt? Ron Paul called for a revolution, but certainly not like this.
    If Angle becomes a Senator and votes in a way that displeases her constituents, would she accept the violent overthrow of her office?

    Some tea partiers were concerned that Democrats would infiltrate the organization and make them look bad. I’m guessing in Nevada the Democrats won’t need to employ that strategy, Angle did a fine job herself.

  6. If we want Jefferson’s mature guidance on this point, we need look no further than his First Inaugural Address (1801, 14 years after the letter quoted):

    “If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.”

  7. Five of your last six commentaries involve politicians acting unethically — politicians of all stripes but sharing a white stripe down their back (and sorry, skunks, for the insult). It’s clear you didn’t have to look far to find them in the news. I think we do need a “revolution” but it’s a revolution in voter thinking — voting them out, not “taking them out.” Jack, when election time comes around this fall, I’ll be happy to help you compile a “vote for honesty and ethics” list.

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