Huston: A Pre-Revolutionary Environment?

March 12, 2016

UNDER WHAT CONSTITUTIONAL PRINCIPLE or democratic theory is it legitimate to deny political opponents access to the public forum? How do you conduct democratic elections if political rallies are shut down and candidates are silenced by partisans of the other party?

The answer from the Left is that some candidates simply don’t have a right to speak if what they say, in the opinion of the shut-them-up crowd, discomforts or disrespects constituencies of the Democratic Party. In the case of Donald Trump, it seems that his opponents believe that as a consequence of his rhetoric he “has it coming” if his rallies are disrupted by hecklers determined to drive him from the stage.

John Hinderaker at Power Line observes that “Blaming Trump for inflammatory rhetoric would make sense if his followers were roaming the streets attacking passers-by, or infiltrating Clinton and Sanders rallies and attacking Democrats. But they aren’t. Not a single such instance has occurred. On the contrary, every violent or disruptive event has involved people associated with the Democratic Party trying to prevent Trump from being heard. Whose inflammatory rhetoric has inspired them? Certainly not Trump’s.”

Trump’s critics focus on the entirely predictable and occasionally inappropriate response by his partisans to the antics of the protesters and not on the question whether disruption is per se anti-democratic and inimical to the constitutional process by which we select our leaders.

Minor heckling at campaign events goes with the political territory, but this sort of irritant is distinguishable from an organized effort to silence a candidate. The latter is associated with pre-revolutionary environments, not routine elections in a constitutional republic.

 

— Tom Charles Huston



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