You might think that a movement so steeped in nostalgia as the modern Democratic Party would be more cautious about avoiding mawkish displays of schmaltz. The hijinks on the House floor for the past day suggest you would be wrong.

This is a party for which every real or fabricated societal ill is the “civil rights issue of our time.” From education reform to a restructuring of the criminal justice system; from voter identification laws to access to affordable housing; from “income inequality” to gender non-specific bathrooms; if everything is “the civil rights issue of our time,” nothing is. It is because the civil rights movement was a success both morally and politically that Democrats are so emotionally attached to that formative period. By trying to resurrect it and the associated moral legitimacy as frequently as they do, however, Democrats cheapen its legacy. Perhaps nothing has done more to strip the civil rights era of its righteousness than the fatuous, self-indulgent display Democrats are putting on this week to advance gun control. This farce is being performed not in service to the expansion of civil rights but their curtailment.

They were really laying it on thick yesterday. In the demand for new gun control legislation, Democrats rallied around a genuine hero of the civil rights movement—Representative John Lewis—and organized an Abbie Hoffman-style sit-in on the floor of the lower chamber of the federal legislature. To hammer home their melancholy wistfulness for a bygone era, Democratic members talked about “occupying” the Capitol Building and sang “We Shall Overcome” as the Republican-led House moved on to other business. This attempt to appropriate the symbols of a virtuous struggle ought to bring shame down upon those possessed of even modest self-awareness. Not so for congressional Democrats.

“No bill, no break!” these unreformed flower children chant. So what is the bill for which they are willing to collectively amputate their noses? The so-called “no-fly, no-buy” rule. The version preferred by Congressional Democrats would rely not on the already constitutionally dubious “no-fly” list but a terror watch list that would prevent millions of Americans who have never been convicted of a crime from exercising their Second Amendment rights. Bending the Fifth Amendment to break the Second is surely not a cause for which any civil rights leader of the era would have pledged their names and their honor.

All they want is a vote, though, right? Well, it’s hard to see how the outcome of a vote in the House, where Republicans enjoy their largest majority in nearly 100 years, would differ from the outcome of procedural votes in the Senate. There, four gun control measures were put to a vote this week, and each one of them failed—some of them with the support of Democratic defections. Even a version of the “no-fly, no buy” rule many Republicans were prepared to accept was put to a vote in the form of an amendment by John Cornyn. The only concession to which Democrats were asked to agree was to make federal law enforcement demonstrate to a judge that a prospective gun buyer who found him or herself on a list without due process was actually a danger to the public welfare. The vast majority of Senate Democrats declined.

Even if congressional Democrats seem impervious to embarrassment, their political allies are not. The cause for which Democrats are rending garments has many on the left deeply concerned over what amounts to an assault on the civil rights of minority Americans. Over at that hotbed of arch-conservative thought, Gawker, Alex Pareene castigated congressional Democrats for going to the mattresses over what he dubbed a “racist, useless” bill. “There’s been a history of an unholy alliance between gun control and racism in America, and Latinos should be wary of any designs to use watchlists to disarm Americans,” wrote NBC News’ Stephen A. Nuño. Both the Cornyn Amendment and a stricter version submitted by Senator Dianne Feinstein, which also failed in the Senate, were denounced by the American Civil Liberties Union. Both amendments, the advocacy organization claimed, relied on “vague and overbroad criteria and the lack of adequate due process safeguards.” It is a truly unique “civil rights” crusade that is opposed by the ACLU.

For the left, this is not a time for thinking. For committed gun controllers, to apply logic to the situation is to betray a lack of zeal for the cause. What is needed now, Democrats appear to contend, is a hopeless display of pathos and pique. But therein is the most humiliating admission from the left. The civil rights movement never believed the cause was hopeless. “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice,” as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said. Given time and persistence, they correctly believed that their triumph over a contradictory and hypocritical oppression was assured. The anti-intellectual movement to which liberals have succumbed is designed not to succeed but to fail in spectacular fashion and, thus, galvanize their allies to vote against Republicans in November. That is quite cynical, but it also betrays the fact that this is no civil rights movement. In fact, it is precisely the opposite.

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