From Kevin Williamson at National Review, ‘Uninhibited,’ You Say?
In the first instance there is the case of Citizens United, a nonprofit advocacy group that was prohibited, in plain contravention of the First Amendment, from showing a film called Hillary: The Movie. The Supreme Court has affirmed that this was a violation of Citizens United’s rights under the First Amendment, and the response of the Democratic party — again, with the blessing of the New York Times — was to attempt to gut the First Amendment, which every Democrat in the United States Senate voted to do under the leadership of Harry Reid. In the second and third cases are the Democratic officials at the state and federal level who have been and are abusing their investigatory and regulatory powers to retaliate against organizations that are critical of certain global-warming and gun-control initiatives. Democratic activists have gone so far as to argue that Charles and David Koch should be imprisoned for their political activities, and that “climate denial” should be a criminal matter. None of that is consistent with our traditional understanding of the First Amendment and of free expression more generally.
If, on the other hand, what we want is a culture of free speech with liberal norms guiding our attitude toward journalism, advocacy, and political debate, then our friends on the left have some thinking to do. The National Rifle Association is an advocacy organization; it does very little other than fight for gun rights and raise money to fund that fight. It is not, contrary to the myth, an outsized political donor: It is No. 497 (out of 16,585) on the list of political donors at OpenSecrets.org. And yet the soi-disant champions of free speech have stood idly by — or cheered — as Democratic officials in New York use their positions to lean on financial-services companies in an effort to shut down the NRA institutionally by denying it ordinary banking and insurance services. That is banana-republic stuff. And yet it is happening, and the fair-weather friends of the First Amendment are by their behavior perfectly contented with that.
Writing in the Boston Globe on August 13, Professor Dani Rodrik of Harvard’s Kennedy School proposed blacklisting any American who served in the Trump administration. The irony-immune professor argues that this is necessary because of the administration’s contempt for “liberal democratic norms.” Blacklisting academics and public figures for their political affiliations is not really quite in keeping with liberal democratic norms either, obviously. He writes: “Like other organizations” — (except bakeries) — “universities have the right to determine their practices in accordance with their values.” Would that this liberal principle were applied liberally! But if your black-hats/white-hats model of the political universe means that, e.g., the secretary of state (who is also a former congressman and CIA director with a law degree from Harvard) cannot be offered a fellowship in a diplomatic-studies program, or that Larry Kudlow must be prohibited from giving a keynote address at a business-school function, then your model is not only dopey and counterproductive, it is also deeply illiberal. Those contemplating such designs would do well to speak a little less loudly about the vindictiveness of the president.
The left has exhibited far more hostility to free speech than Trump has ever remotely considered.