Just to get it out there immediately: I’m voting Ted Cruz. If Trump gets the nod, I’m writing-in Ted Cruz. If there’s not a space for a write-in, I’ll scribble it across my ballot. I cannot and will not participate in trading one tyrant for another- even if the “new” tyrant shares more of my beliefs and values.
With that being said, however, it’s important to state unequivocally that not only is Donald Trump and his supporters not to blame for the recent violence at his rallies, but the mere suggestion otherwise is indicative of a troubling cultural and political divide that may never be mended.
As we are a generation removed from emphasizing the importance of the Constitution in our school system, it’s understandable (yet sad) that so many young people erroneously believe that the First Amendment protects a person’s right to do whatever they want, whenever they want, wherever they want.
When I first emerged into politics, I was tasked with monitoring the social media of a political organization. People would write foul utterances and personal attacks and when I would remove these postings, other leftists would emerge to shout in caps about their supposed First Amendment rights- as if the First Amendment applied to privately-maintained Facebook pages.
My response was required so often, I would copy and paste from a Word document with a ready-made paragraph explaining how the First Amendment protects free speech from government abuse, not censoring from private citizens, companies or organizations. This explanation seldom did any good to thwart the ravings of the enraged left.
Those who support Trump, Bernie Sanders, or whomever should feel welcomed to attend the campaign rallies so long as they can remain somewhat civil. However, just like attending a movie at a theater, one cannot behave however they wish. Standing-up and shouting, fighting or generally causing a disruption is enough for one to be asked to leave. Failure to heed these requests can invite police intervention. Asserting that someone has a “right” to stay and disrupt a movie is every bit as ridiculous as asserting that one has a “right” to stay and disrupt an event put-on by a political candidate.
Mr. Trump and his campaign are throwing these events at great personal expense and they do so as a means of conveying the campaign’s message. One can like the message, dislike the message or even hate the message, but one cannot disrupt the message and expect zero consequences.
And no, these consequences (such as police pepper-spraying crowds who refuse to disperse) are not First Amendment violations. If there is anyone being deprived of their First Amendment rights, it is Trump and his followers who were silenced in Chicago by a hoard of thugs seeking to silence political discussion in the name of supposed tolerance.
This issue is more-complex when we consider the fickle relationship Trump has with the First Amendment. The billionaire running as a conservative holds a pathological dislike for the mainstream media- and for this belief, few can blame him.
However, the candidate who accuses any critics of simply lying has openly declared that he intends to crack-down on the media by “opening up” libel laws to make it easier to sue media outlets- a promise that has chilling implications for First Amendment protections for the press.
Already, libel laws prohibit the printing of accusations that are demonstrably false. What, exactly, Trump hopes to forbid by “opening up” the libel laws appears to be unflattering criticisms that are most-certainly protected by the First Amendment.
Further, one must consider the recent incident concerning Breitbart journalist Michelle Fields. Ms. Fields contends that she was yanked nearly to the ground when she moved-in to ask Trump a question. Fields alleges that the man who yanked her arm and left bruises was Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s campaign manager. Fields’ story was substantiated by several witnesses and after the Trump Campaign denied the incident took place, a video surfaced that appeared to show the incident unfolding exactly as Fields had described.
The Trump Campaign offered a bizarre explanation, claiming that they did not realize she was with Breitbart but was, instead, with the “adversarial mainstream media.”
As if assaulting a member of ABC News is A-okay…
Unbelievably, Breitbart, an organization dedicated to the promotion of all things Trump, refused to stand-by their reporter and as a result, several key Breitbart staffers have resigned including Fields and Andrew Breitbart protégé Ben Shapiro.
Is Trump a victim of thugs seeking to deny him his First Amendment rights? Yes. Is he also a bully whose campaign has restricted the First Amendment rights of others? Absolutely.
Politicians have done what they will always do: they’ve politicized the situation. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have both capitalized upon the situation to claim that Trump’s in-your-face rhetoric has created an environment where these kinds of disruptions can take place.
In truth, Trump’s cultivation of a dogmatic following of believers is rather unsettling; however, those laying the blame for these outbreaks of violence at Trump’s feet are wrong.
How many Bernie Sanders campaign events have been disrupted by unruly conservatives asserting that Sanders doesn’t have the right to spew his divisive rhetoric? How many Hillary campaigns have been canceled because of the threat of violence? This phenomenon is uniquely a liberal one.
We must seek balance in this discussion. The left needs to stop pretending that they have a right to do whatever they please. Social justice warriors need to stop believing that they possess a moral duty to restrict speech with which they disagree. Politicians need to place the blame where it should be: on the protesters-turned-disrupters. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton need to denounce this brand of intolerant thuggery. Idiots on social media need to stop blaming the victim and start blaming the thugs.
And Donald Trump- he needs to stop pretending to be a virtuous First Amendment purist.