Democrats Think Their First Amendment Is Different (And Superior)

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Michael Thielen Executive Director, Republican National Lawyers Association
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Representative Val Demings may be the first Democrat to admit to how the left views the First Amendment. The Florida Congresswoman replied to a critical comment by saying, “My First Amendment Right is different from yours.” Any honest political observer has to admit that this is a salvo in the war the left and Democrats are currently waging on free speech. They try their best to silence any speech that does not fit their dogma, and Demings, intentionally or not, just revealed the game plan.

Whether it comes in the form of campuses silencing speakers who “offend” their student snowflakes or via government officials regulating elections, efforts to stop or limit opposing viewpoints should be deeply troubling to all.  Most troubling are the movements being led by Democrat lawyers and liberal law professors, the very people who traditionally have been defenders of the First Amendment.

The American legal system tells us that Justice is blind, but someone should tell that to the Democrats who propose election speech initiatives that only benefit their side. A great example is Sen. Chuck Schumer’s, and other Senate Democrats’, sponsorship of the very-misnamed “We the People” reform package.  This package would restructure the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to include  three members of the President’s party and two of the opposition party, a change from its current composition of three Democrats and three Republicans with the possibility of deadlock as a check on power.

The FEC is set up to limit partisan restrictions of speech by one party or the other by making the FEC evenly split between the parties, with the votes of four commissioners—a minimum of bipartisan agreement—required for it to take any action.  This legislation was an obvious effort by Schumer and Democrats to chill or limit the political speech of Republicans, libertarians, Green Party members, and even non-establishment Democrats when they thought Hillary Clinton was a lock to win the White House.  It comes as no surprise they have not reintroduced the proposal under President Trump.

No one should doubt the left’s ideals on speech go only one way.  Democrat members on the FEC went after Fox News for — get this — too much speech in allowing too many candidates in a Republican primary debate the network hosted, while ignoring CNN when it did the same thing.  Fortunately, the three Republicans on the commission blocked their colleagues, followed the law and were ideologically consistent in opposing efforts to go after CNN and Fox, so nothing came of the Democrat witch hunt.

One of those Democratic commissioners, Ann Ravel, who has since resigned, even proposed regulating the internet, including individual Facebook and blog posts.  She even voted to regulate internet speech despite a longstanding FEC policy not to regulate such speech.  Is there any doubt that three Democrat commissioners under the Schumer FEC plan would fine and regulate Republican posts while ignoring Democrat posts?  (In fairness, Democrat party leaders would also go after an outsider candidate like Bernie Sanders over an establishment candidate like Hillary Clinton.  Remember the leaked DNC emails?)

More frightening than limiting and regulating the speech of everyday Americans trying to speak on political issues is government seeking to punish and prosecute those who want to speak out against them.  Make no mistake, the IRS’s political targeting of Tea Party and other conservative non-profit groups beginning in 2010 was an attempt to silence opposition voices that were not friendly to Democrats or government power.

The left continues to double down and stop opposing speech even among its own members.  Consider the liberal outcry against the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.  Yes, Democrats oppose integrity in the electoral system, apparently.

Marc Elias, Hillary’s lawyer and now the lawyer of choice in Democrat fights against free speech, leveled a warning to any Democrat who serves on a commission to study vote fraud and how to make elections better. He said: “No Democrat should serve on Trump’s new voter suppression commission. Period.” Similarly, Bob Bauer, President Obama’s lawyer and Elias’ current colleague, said: “[E]lection administration experts should keep their distance” from the commission. Professor Rick Hasen, promoter of liberal talking points, wrote on his Election Law Blog “Not sure what Democrat or election professional would be on a commission” with Secretary of State Kris Kobach or former Secretary of State Ken Blackwell.  Hasen’s probably correct: it’s safe to assume few Democrats are courageous enough to cross Elias.

And remember, freedom of association is part of our First Amendment rights.  But according to Elias, Bauer, and Hasen, a Democrat cannot even associate with Republicans without repercussions.

Fortunately for the country, some Democrats are willing stand up to the bullying from the Democrat legal establishment. The commission does include Democrats, including arguably the most qualified election official in the country and longest-serving Secretary of State, William Gardner of New Hampshire, the only truly purple state in the Northeast.  Gardner has done such a good job in the opinion of the people of New Hampshire that he has survived the changing tides of Republican and Democrat leadership.

The real problem for Elias, Bauer, and Hasen is they fear that Gardner will be an honest broker, not a blind partisan, who will look past who is President and how much the results of the commission benefit Democrats.  He will assess the true state of elections in this country, determine public confidence in election results, evaluate election integrity, and very likely not simply regurgitate Democratic talking points.

One wonders if the establishment left fears free speech in our electoral process so much because in a free debate, they will lose. And let’s not forget that Democrats, including Elias, are privately very concerned about ineligible voters, but only when their favored candidates’ victories are at stake.

To his credit, Bernie Sanders showed that at least some Democrats still support free speech and intellectual discussion, even if they are increasingly outsiders within their own party.  Sanders condemned the successful effort to stop Ann Coulter from speaking at UC Berkeley: “But you know, people have a right to . . . give a speech, without fear of violence and intimidation. . . . To me, it’s a sign of intellectual weakness . . . . Confront her intellectually. Booing people down, or intimidating people, or shutting down events, I don’t think that that works in any way.”

Of course, that sort of intellectual discussion and competition is what establishment Democrats fear most.  Dissent is not allowed among today’s establishment Democrats, which may be why they rigged the primary to defeat Sanders and continue to fight every effort to protect the right to speak freely regardless of political party or ideology.