When Does Anti-Trump Equal Anti-Freedom?
I was disturbed to read in the news today that, yet again, an anti-Trump protester at a public forum featuring Donald Trump was viciously assaulted by a Trump supporter. But I was equally disturbed to read another account in the news today of two instances — one in Tucson and one in Phoenix — in which “protesters” created blockades with their bodies (and, in Phoenix, with pickup trucks) to prevent other Americans from attending pro-Trump forums.
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution places freedom of speech and freedom of peaceable assembly at the center of our nation’s culture of civic democracy. People who accuse Donald Trump of being oppressive in one moment and in the next moment act to prevent their neighbors from attending a political rally lack a sense of irony and a sense of moral consistency. I put the word “protesters” in quotation marks here, because people who make it their primary object to obstruct others’ rights aren’t really protesters in their acts. Protest is an act that is primarily expressing a political idea. But the goal of these so-called “protesters” is not to express their own vision — it is to prevent other human beings from expressing theirs. That makes them obstructionists, agitators, provocateurs, and bullies. They are mob-empowered oppressors.
On top of all that, such “protesters” lack a sense of strategy. Is the goal really to stop people from being able to attend a rally? Or perhaps to intimidate Donald Trump into shutting up? Either goal is profoundly misguided. It’s not like the people who were blocked from seeing Trump couldn’t hear him some other way, after all — and has anyone been able to actually shut up Donald Trump? No. The man is many things, but inclined to retreat into silence when confronted? No. If anything, the act of being stymied from speaking will infuriate Donald Trump into speaking more loudly than ever. Meanwhile, the people who were blocked from assembling to listen to Donald Trump will only stiffen their support for Trump as a result, solidifying the sense of victimhood among Trump’s supporters who will even more strongly hate the gays, the Mexicans, the dark-skinned people of the world, the non-Christians, everyone who is not like them, because they will have a story to hold on to, a story of the day when The Scary Other took away their right to free speech. You can bet your boots they’ll turn out ever more strongly to vote for Donald Trump now. They’ll rile up their friends to do the same with nasty (and in this limited case justified) tales of being oppressed by mean liberals and feminazis who took away their rights.
Listen up, you Trump rally blockaders. Open your ears for a second, you “We Stopped Trump!” chanters: the goal is not to shut down Trump rallies. The goal is not to prevent people from attending Trump’s rallies. Or at least it shouldn’t be, because that’s not only brutish and counterproductive but also really short-sighted. The goal is to STOP TRUMP… FROM BECOMING PRESIDENT. The way to do that is to stop driving people into Trump’s arms. The way to do that is to stop making anti-Trump equal anti-freedom. The way to do that is to try to change people’s minds.
Protest, yes. March, absolutely. But do it to speak and amplify your voice — not to stymie and shut others’ voices down. You speaking, and others speaking, and you convincing more people to agree with you is how elections are won. More participation, more discussion, more inclusion is how demagoguery is diffused and defused. That’s how disasters like a Trump presidency are avoided. That’s how positive change happens.