“If it gets a little boring…I just say, ‘We will build the wall!’ and they go nuts.” – Donald Trump, January 30, 2016
What do you suppose our good friends over at the American Civil Liberties Union have to say about the scuffles breaking out at Trump rallies earlier in March? I recall a professional protester hired to disrupt one Trump Rally I attended in Birmingham, Alabama last November. I wonder if those First Amendment enthusiasts are willing to stand for the First Amendment issues at play there.
Let’s look at some of those First Amendment issues.
First, the standard media rendition has it that anti-Trump protesters were violated during the organized fracases, both physically and because they were denied free speech rights. Here too, for the record, you can bet your bottom dollar that many if not most of the anti-Trump protesters were plants. In that case, we may indeed have free speech violations but it’s the protesters, the purported victims, who have done the violating.
Second, the “you can’t scream ‘Fire’ in a crowded theater” free speech standard does and should prevail. But just what does screaming fire mean in the context of a political rally? Trump rented the spaces and planned the events like concerts or drama plays – and I do mean major political drama! Can you scream out the star sucks or my ears hurt? Is that a redress of grievances? Many hecklers have interrupted shows in theaters and they usually end up the same as the protestors did, thrown out by the cops. And they don’t even get paid like the protesters.
Trump’s opponents are accusing him of inciting violence. But proclaiming “we will build the wall” is not quite the same as screaming fire in a crowded theater. Studies show that walls reduce violence, not increase it. So Trump wants to reduce violence and chaos, especially at our southern border. Certainly it’s no worse than Bernie Sanders’ confiscatory positions regarding our esteemed banks, like JP Morgan Chase. Bernie’s statements don’t necessarily mean that Jamie Dimon can expect to be tarred and feathered by soccer moms whenever he blames bank CEOs in front of large agitated crowds. It’s got to be Wall Street’s fault even though it was Bernie, himself, and much of Congress’ that really blew all of our money and then some on government failures and massive incompetence.
Trump’s statements may be inflammatory and he may be expecting the crowd to “go nuts” – but so are most of the issues that politicians cling on to when they think they’ve found a horse they can ride to power. Look at the great Democrats of Alabama like George Wallace. And the threat of violence always lurks in politics; “inflammatory” may connote “crying fire,” etymologically speaking, but there is still a thin line between the two that must be ever so carefully observed. You do really need to hire them and then say “go punch those guys” before you have clearly crossed that line.
I reckon that the same old liberal double standard is at work here. When Trump draws in massive supporters and looks like he’s going to win, they’re called a fascist mob. When anti-war protestors destroy private property because the owner doesn’t support their cause, they’re fighting against fascism. Such intellectual duplicity is particularly underscored by another “ugly” incident earlier in March.
As reported in the Huffington Post, Tasmeen Alamiri, a Muslim reporter covering a Trump rally in Virginia, was called a terrorist (which she didn’t at first even notice). Forty-five minutes later, another man asked a nearby police officer if he was “there for this terrorist,” meaning her. She was “spooked.” Then she asked a woman for directions to the bathroom and was instead advised that “you are disgusting and sleazy.”
Alamari was never physically harmed, yet these very rough exercises of free speech by Trump supporters – which, however deplorable, are as perfectly legal as calling a policeman a “pig” – merited coverage in the Huffington Post, which also reported that, at the same event, a Secret Service member slammed a Time photographer into a table. You can only imagine how Time reacted to that one. It’s one thing to temporarily lock out immigrant Mexicans and Muslim refugees, but how dare they harass a Time photographer from the main stream media. Of course, for all we know, that Secret Service agent isn’t even a Trump supporter and the photographer was.
Let’s keep our perspective here. It’s not just liberals; but the entire globalist establishment is deep in hypocrisy. John Kasich said of Trump that “there is no place for a national leader to prey on the fears of people.” But somehow it’s OK for Kasich and the official insiders to create the very real fears which Trump has benefited. Very noble sentiments, but do you remember how George H. W. Bush skewered Michael Dukakis in the 1988 Presidential election with repetitive TV ads that featured the menacing (black) face of paroled thug Willie Horton? Not a single “moderate” Republican, from Ohio or anywhere else, objected.
Personally, I got enough of the political hypocrisy when I successfully brought a U.S. Supreme Court case (McCutcheon v. FEC) that struck down aggregate limits on campaign financing as a violation of free speech rights. The same people who would defend Hitler’s right to spew poison on Main Street depicted my cause as an insidious threat to democracy. That First Amendment champion, the ACLU, was internally divided over McCutcheon v. FEC and did not even submit an Amici brief much less support my case. They just couldn’t come to terms with spending your own private American money on free political speech to clean up the mess.
First Amendment issues aside, Trump does have some challenges. He needs to tone it down, as a matter of political strategy if not civic responsibility – but, at the same time, he cannot dilute his unique and special message. He can’t lose the intensity that has powered his massive success to date. If he “inflames” crowds, yet still remains on the kosher side of the “scream fire” standard, he still needs to carefully maintain control of his own emotions. Remember Howard Dean bellowing his way to political obliteration? Trump has to keep on delivering his own message and not let the media write it for him like they finally did last week.
In the last analysis, however, the Democratic and Republican establishments have tougher questions to answer and a more slippery slope to navigate. First and foremost: Do they really believe in our republic and, if so, what happens when vox populi actually demands disruption?
True conservatives understand something that liberals tend to forget: We have a fundamental right to redress our grievances and select our new leaders. I still want to hear what they have to say even if they don’t like me. Free speech tells us who everyone is. We understand that “you did a poor job” or “you’re sleazy” is protected free speech. So is “vote for me,” and so is “send me some money.”
Shaun McCutcheon, an electrical engineer in Alabama is the successful plaintiff in McCutcheon vs FEC and author of Outsider Inside the Supreme Court