The stories come at us from every direction, relentlessly, 24/7/365, our newsfeeds bombarding us with scandals and catastrophes both natural and man-made, with obvious outrages demanding our immediate attention, as well as a steady stream of lesser or localized transgressions we just don’t have the bandwidth to absorb.

In the last year, the Los Angeles City Council passed laws prohibiting any business performing work on President Trump’s “big beautiful wall” from gaining a contract with the city of Los Angeles. Additionally, anyone applying for a City contract must disclose any association they have to border wall work. The Council also passed a law requiring anyone seeking a City contract to disclose membership in or financial support of the National Rifle Association. Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, the author of the NRA resolution, declared, “The NRA has been a road block to gun safety reform at every level of government now for several decades.” His motion passed unanimously. You may agree with him. You may loathe the NRA and believe Trump’s wall is a waste of money, ugly, racist or all three. But you should still be horrified the L.A. City Council has taken these steps.

The actions by the Los Angeles City Council are egregious abuses of power, an assault on the First Amendment. Remember that one? “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”, wrote James Madison in 1789, “or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” If the Congress is prohibited from restricting who we choose to assemble with, what causes we support with our own time and our own money, then how is a city council authorized to trample this most American of American rights?

Animus toward the President and horror at the murder of school children cannot blind us to the danger of these repressive laws masquerading as progressive resistance. If the L.A. City Council can ban companies or individuals from earning a living via city contracts because they don’t like the applicant’s politics, some other city council or state legislature can ban contributors and supporters of the American Civil Liberties Union, National Organization of Women, Planned Parenthood, PETA and on and on. The First Amendment does not give you immunity from criticism or even an economic boycott. It does prohibit government from punishing private citizens and organizations for expressing beliefs and supporting causes they may not like. If in exercising your right to free association you risk bringing financial ruin and public intimidation from your government then we have abandoned a core principle, and established a very dangerous precedent that will come back to haunt us.

Hyper-partisanship has driven otherwise rational people to say and do astonishing things, with life-long States Rights advocates suddenly born-again New Dealers when it comes to the power of the President and longtime Liberals preaching the gospel of John C. Calhoun and nullification. In California, partisanship is passé. The Republican Party has faded in the sun like the paint on an ’82 Chrysler. There’s only a suggestion of an opposition party west of the Sierras. The Democrats have had to turn to the clown college on Capitol Hill as a fund-raising pinata and get-out-the-vote gong on Election Day. Nobody’s breaking out their Visa Card to defeat Shannon Grove or Marie Waldron.

Who? Shannon Grove is the Republican Minority Leader in the State Senate and Marie Waldron holds the same post in the Assembly. There isn’t a single brand name Republican left to fire up the base. They’ve gone the way of the California condor, nearly extinct. We know there’s still a few out there, but when was the last time you actually saw one?

Opposition parties serve a valuable function in a democracy. Our system is designed to be adversarial; the so-called checks and balances. Through a combination of electoral success and GOP hara-kiri, the State once known as “Reagan Country” is now the bluest of blues. That’s not a good thing. As Lord Acton famously said, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” We have reached that critical mass in California.

The anti-NRA and border wall laws passed by the Los Angeles City Council could only happen in a one-party culture, the same way the super-restrictive anti-abortion legislation could only pass in the redest of red state legislatures. L.A.’s McCarthy-like disclosure laws were passed without dissent and with barely a raised eyebrow amongst the Trump-fatigued public. That there was little protest doesn’t make these laws less dangerous. “Have you now or have you ever been…” are not questions we should require builders, software writers, plumbers, drywallers or truck manufacturers to answer as a precondition of employment. As unthinkable as it may be today, at some point in the future, California — and even Los Angeles — may turn to the right. What then?

It’s not easy to walk in another man’s shoes. Still, as a matter of self-interest, we should give it a try. Americans have the right to free expression and the right to assemble and the right to petition our government for redress of grievances. This right is not negotiable and not subject to City Council revocation. What the L.A. City Council wants to do is not only short-sighted, it’s likely unconstitutional and 100 percent un-American.

Originally published in the Orange County Register