Having supported Jeb Bush, a Trump apologist I am not. However, to blame him for a mob of leftist thugs wreaking havoc at his rally in Chicago is just plain wrong. It is anti-free speech; it’s un-American. The attempt by MoveOn.Org to use paid protesters to silence Trump supporters through intimidation is consistent with the radical left’s attempt to silence those with differing opinions and views. This tactic is reprehensible, but has been used frequently. Remember the protests at Rutgers University preventing Condi Rice from speaking or the protests, at a Yale forum on free speech?
The left is not interested in having a discussion or even a heated debate with Trump or with anyone else who cannot pass the liberal litmus test. They are only interested in silencing views with which they disagree. To disagree with them is to be branded a racist or a bigot. In today’s world, this is an example of the not-so-subtle intimidation of political correctness. Indeed, the left-leaning media is complicit as MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow went so far as to blame Trump for the behavior of the mob. Stifle debate, blame the victim. This is the way the left deals with dissent.
Alternatively, a civics lesson on how to deal with dissent or differing views is exemplified by the late Justice Antonin Scalia in the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Texas v Johnson. There, Justice Scalia joined the majority ruling upholding Gregory Lee Johnson’s constitutional right to light an American flag on fire during the Republican National Convention in Dallas. The next day Justice Scalia commented, “I would send that guy to jail so fast if I were king.” While he found Johnson’s act personally and morally reprehensible, Scalia emphasized that burning the flag is a form of free speech and, therefore, a right granted to the citizens by the First Amendment.
Following Justice Scalia’s line of reasoning, we cannot allow personal judgment or bias to preclude us from allowing others to speak. Free speech is the most basic right granted to U.S. citizens; it’s what makes us Americans. We do not have to agree with conflicting opinions and, in fact, we have the First Amendment right to argue at will. But we do have an obligation to protect every person’s right to express his or her views — no matter how unpalatable we find them. While I find it remarkable that more people are not outraged by Senator Sanders’ blatant socialism or Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi cover-up, no one has the right to shut Sanders or Clinton down entirely. Despite what I think of the two candidates personally, I would defend their right to voice opinions that fundamentally conflict with my own. Intimidation of any kind has no place on the right or the left.
We need to recognize Trump’s right to say what he wants to say. It appears that the majority of dissenters in Chicago were paid to promote the culture of hyper-political correctness. The lefts’ protests of Trump actually highlights his appeal to voters who have had it with the PC crowd on the left. While many may see Trump’s speeches as inflammatory, Justice Scalia provides guidance when dealing with civil discourse to which we personally object.
As a South Floridian, our community understands the importance of free speech on a personal and professional level. Human rights violations in places like Cuba and Venezuela, where vestiges of authoritarianism remain, can be traced to a political culture that has not fully granted citizens the freedom of expression. Not surprising, such governments are viewed sympathetically by many on the left such as by Senator Sanders. If we want to keep governments accountable, we need citizens who can freely voice their opinions and draw attention to injustice wherever it exists. America’s great appeal isn’t just for its economic opportunities, but also for its openness to civil discord. Nobody wants to be silenced, and America has provided citizens with a platform and megaphone since our Founding Fathers penned the Bill of Rights.
Claiming offense at Trump’s rhetoric certainly does not justify a violent, lawless response. It is preposterous that any American would condemn Trump because they disagree with what he says or how he says it. We cannot improve our political climate through the systemic silencing of differing views.
The only way for us to retain our national identity is by protecting Trump’s right to speak — espouse an opposing view but the discussion must be free from intimidation. Only then will America be truly great.
Ed J. Pozzuoli is the president of Florida-based law firm Tripp Scott. He was the co-chairman of Jeb Bush for Governor (Broward). He also served as an integral member of the Bush/Cheney legal team in the 2000 presidential recount litigation. He is an active member of the Republican Party and served as the chairman of the Republican Party in Broward County, Florida.