Preventing People From Attending Donald Trump Rallies Is Undemocratic

Donald Trump Protesters - St Louis

Shutting down political rallies with the threat of violence and blocking public access to hear a political candidate speak is not behaviour worthy of any citizen of a democracy

People have every right to feel alarmed or even scared about the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump. This blog believes that a Trump presidency, were he to secure the Republican nomination and win the general election, would be jarringly populist at best and economically ruinous at worst, though I dismiss any alarmist talk that Trump is in any way equivalent to the Nazis or other genocidal fascists.

Such hyperbole from anti-Trump activists is thoroughly unhelpful at a time when tempers are already flaring on both sides. After all, if you are a supporter of Donald Trump then having an angry college student yell in your face that you are supporting the new incarnation of Hitler will likely make you quite unreceptive to engaging in further debate and potentially being persuaded to change your views.

But the invective (on both sides) and hand-writing hysteria (primarily from the anti-Trump crowd) are nothing compared to the more blatantly anti-democratic methods by which some liberals are now attempting to shut down Donald Trump’s message rather than take it on in the battle of ideas.

The Huffington Post reports that some demonstrators are now attempting to block public access to Donald Trump rallies to prevent his supporters from hearing him speak, under the banner “Shut Down Trump”:

Protesters on Saturday blocked the roads leading to a Donald Trump rally in Fountain Hills, Arizona.

[..] An ABC 15 anchor reported at least three people had been arrested in connection with the protests. Deputy Joaquin Enriquez, a spokesman for the Maricopa County sheriff’s office, told ABC 15 the arrests were for blocking the road, not protesting.

The roadblock didn’t stop some determined people from getting out of their cars and walking to Trump’s rally.

Tomas Robles, executive director of Living United for Change in Arizona, a workers’ rights organization, told HuffPost that law enforcement was cooperative and treated protesters fairly. He said some Trump supporters “did try to get get aggressive,” but they were not violent.

“It was a peaceful protest, we got our point across, and we showed the nation and our state that just because Arizona at a time has been seen as anti-immigrant and somewhat racist, this is not that state anymore,” he said. “We’re not going to allow people like Trump to spew that rhetoric.”

Note the authoritarian tinge to the words of Tomas Robles, one of the protesters quoted by Huffington Post. Because he and his organisation disagree with Donald Trump, they are “not going to allow” him to air his views in public – at a political rally of all places, that most sacrosanct of venues in terms of the necessity for free speech.

While the rally in question went ahead, the demonstration prevented many Trump supporters from attending and forced others to abandon their cars and walk the rest of the way to the venue:

 

Hilariously, the Huffington Post – clearly sensing that running a story about liberal activists interfering with a political rally might not sound terribly progressive – felt the need to add the following editor’s note to the end of the article:

Editor‘s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.

The obvious implication of this note is that it is perfectly appropriate and justified to stifle and attempt to shut down some forms of speech, and that we shouldn’t think badly of the protesters because they are waging war against a bad person who thinks the wrong things as opposed to a good person, “one of us”, who holds the correct beliefs and whose speech should be protected.

Or in other words: “Don’t worry, Trump and his supporters had it coming. They are bad people”.

The furious liberals outraged at the rise of Donald Trump need to realise that their usual tactic of shouting, screaming and now blockading things that they dislike is actually feeding – not killing – the beast. Maybe they do realise, but simply don’t care. Maybe the opportunity to signal their own moral virtue by ostentatiously raging against Trump is all that they care about.

But until Trump’s most ardent enemies on the Left learn to use their words rather than their fists they will only succeed in undermining free speech and American democracy, making Trump stronger all the while.

 

Donald Trump Rally

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Arizona Joins ‘The List’

I have a partly tongue-in-cheek list of US states that I am currently ‘boycotting’, or have no intention of visiting in the immediate future, either because of unfortunate things that have happened to me there, or most usually because of particularly stupid and offensive laws that have been either proposed or actually voted on and passed in their legislatures.

Arizona was already strongly competing to join this exclusive list (it is difficult to join and even harder to be removed from the list) with the signing by Gov. Jan Brewer of their famous anti-illegal-immigration law, allowing state police to detain anyone suspected of being an illegal immigrant (quite how you tell such a person from a natural US citizen by their appearance or behaviour is anyone’s guess, but I think we all know the criteria they have in mind):

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/24/us/politics/24immig.html?_r=1

But then came this gem that I was alerted to by a friend on Facebook – now, the Arizona State Senate Judiciary Committee (a pompous title for a pompous group of individuals) has endorsed a controversial bill that will, if passed, allow Arizona employees to exclude contraception coverage from the healthcare plans that they offer to their employees, if their religious beliefs or moral convictions encourage them to do so. Furthermore, the bill would also allow employers to demand proof of a medical prescription (for non birth-control related reasons) if an employee wishes to claim for contraceptive pills on their health insurance policy.

http://www.statepress.com/2012/03/12/senate-judiciary-committee-endorses-controversial-contraceptive-bill/

Let me count the ways that this is an offensive and idiotic proposal.

The author of the bill – one Debbie Lesko, Republican of course – says that:

“So, government should not be telling the organizations or mom and pop employers to do something against their moral beliefs.”

Okay, well guess what. Maybe I’ll set up shop in Arizona and start a small business. But I am from a small and little-known religion that doesn’t believe in mammograms or cervical cancer screening. I don’t know why, my particular interpretation of my hypothetical holy book just tells me that to test for these diseases to allow early intervention would be an affront to God. So none of my female employees will get to benefit from these forms of healthcare as part of the insurance plan that I provide them. Oh, and my new religion also thinks that heart disease and erectile dysfunction are punishments from God that should be meekly accepted rather than treated, so no Viagra or anti-cholesterol medication for the gents. If you need Viagra to treat some other ailment not connected with erectile dysfunction we can maybe talk about coming to an agreement, but I’ll need a signed letter from your doctor explaining your precise medical history and needs.

Can you imagine the uproar?

Let us be quite clear. This is not about freedom of religion. Many states have been living under an expressed requirement that employers include birth control coverage in their healthcare plans for many years with nary a whisper of complaint until a Democrat named Barack Obama occupied the oval office. This is about slowly trying to establish a fundamentalist Christian theocracy in America, one in which even the overwhelming majority of Christians, myself included, would not wish to live in were it fully implemented. Republicans – who once criticised Obama because of the type of Christian church that he attended and the pastor who preached there – have decided that it would now be more politically fruitful to fan the embers of suspicion that he is in fact a muslim, and that he is launching an all-out assault on “Judeo-Christian” principles.

And while we’re on the topic, can someone please initiate a sensible conversation about moving away from the current employer-based health insurance system in America? Aside from the damage it does to the economy in terms of issues such as impeding mobility of labour (especially important during the current fragile recovery with unemployment so high), if individuals purchased their own health insurance rather than relying on the employer to do it for them, we could sidestep this whole argument about coercing employers to act against their moral beliefs. If Debbie Lesko ever chose to leave her political career and return to the private sector, she wouldn’t have to stay up all night worrying about what naughty things her employees might be doing with the healthcare coverage that she paid for, because the employees would be paying the premiums and taking their chances that they won’t be struck down by lightning for daring to use a condom, or the pill. And I think everyone would sleep better at night as a result.

Arizona, you have been teetering on the brink for a long time now. But congratulations,  you have officially made the list.