Republicans Flip-Flop On Campus Free Speech To Support Antisemitism Bill

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Gage Klipper Commentary & Analysis Writer
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As Americans, we take our free speech for granted. But that’s a luxury we can no longer afford.

Unlike the Europeans and their sweeping hate speech laws, Americans have the First Amendment to protect us from the speech police. The rise of wokeness shook the bedrock of that constitutional right, and with Democrats’ full-throated embrace of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion dogma, we assumed the threat to speech would only ever come from the left. But despite years of posturing against leftist speech codes, it now appears that Republicans are the first to mount a frontal legislative assault on the First Amendment.

The Republican-sponsored Antisemitism Awareness Act was approved Wednesday in the House of Representatives on a 320-91 vote, which included a majority (133) of Democrats and only 21 Republican defectors, the Washington Post reported. The bill would create a “clear definition” of antisemitism, which the Department of Education could then use to cut funding for universities found in violation.

Under the new definition, antisemitism could include labeling Israel’s existence a “racist endeavor,” applying “double standards” to Israel that are “not expected” of others, and comparing “Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”

The aim is to make universities hold their students accountable when, for example, they wave signs with the slogan “from the river to the sea,” which implies Israel is an illegitimate state that must be overthrown.

It’s not hard to see how this could quickly be expanded to censor all sorts of “isms” and “phobias” that the left finds hateful. But that didn’t stop an overwhelming majority of Republicans from supporting it — even among self-described anti-woke, free speech champions.

When he was first elected to Congress, Republican New York Rep. Mike Lawler, the lead sponsor of the bill, pledged to fight back against the leftist overreach.

“At the end of the day what this really comes down to is electing people who are going to push back against the woke progressive agenda,” he said in a victory speech from 2020.

Yet his bill does the opposite, giving the left the exact framework they need to further entrench the “woke progressive agenda.”

House Speaker Mike Johnson voiced his support of the bill as well, proudly announcing the “House-wide effort to crack down on antisemitism.”

Only a few months ago, he teamed up with Republican Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan on The Free Speech Protection Act, which sought to impose “mandatory severe penalties” on hostile bureaucrats who censored protected speech.

“The dystopian scheme by the government, Big Tech, academia, and many NGOs to censor American citizens and silence conservative voices is far-reaching and dangerous,” Johnson said at the time.

So much for that. Jordan voted in favor of the bill as well. (RELATED: Conservatives Making Amateur Political Mistake By Cheerleading Campus Crackdowns)

And they’re not alone. All four additional members of Republican House leadership voted for the bill as well.

Majority Leader Rep. Steve Scalise voted yea, despite defending the 2010 Free Speech Act from attempts to overturn it only last year.

“Free speech is the cornerstone of our democracy, and we cannot allow powerful interests to silence the voices of everyday Americans,” he said at the time.

Majority Whip Rep. Tom Emmer also voted yea, despite being an outspoken critic of the Biden Adminstration’s attempt to crackdown on “disinformation.”

“The Biden Administration has no business policing our free speech. We cannot allow Washington bureaucrats to become the arbiters of our precious First Amendment liberties,” Emmer said when Biden attempted to create a Disinformation Governance Board.

Conference Chair Rep. Elise Stefanik voted in favor, despite championing the Protecting Speech from Government Interference Act just last year. (RELATED: Biden Says States Shouldn’t Deploy National Guard Against Anti-Israel Protests)

“House Republicans are standing up for the First Amendment on behalf of the American patriots who have been unfairly censored,” she said at the time. “We are putting an end to this purely partisan government censorship.”

Finally, Policy Committee Chairman Rep. Gary Palmer seems to have the right view of free speech when it comes to the indictments of former President Donald Trump over his handling of Jan. 6.

“Regardless of any opinions about President Trump or his statements about the outcome of the 2020 election, President Trump’s statements are protected by the First Amendment right to free speech, especially political speech,” Palmer said, adding that the indictment falls short of the “criminal legal standard” on political speech.

Yet with his yea vote, he seems happy to change that standard.

It’s inexplicable that the most powerful people in the Republican Party are choosing to support this crackdown on speech. Yes, these protesters are awful people and they should not be welcome in polite society, let alone elite universities. But the solution is not giving more ammunition to a legal apparatus that has already been weaponized against conservative speech.

The solution is already there, for anyone who cares to employ it. If you violently take over a private building and set up encampments, you should be arrested and charged — no matter what sign you’re holding.