March 22, 2016 by David K. Sutton
Weak-Kneed Liberals to Trump Protesters: Drop Dead (or at least keep it down)
In an interview on All In with Chris Hayes, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said (in response to Trump protesters) that he is “not a great fan of disrupting rallies.” Not only does that not sound like a revolution, it sounds peculiarly like weak-kneed liberals who have called protests of Donald Trump, unproductive.
Trish Kahle writes on Jacobin, “A lot of words came to mind as I watched thousands of protesters shut down a Donald Trump rally in Chicago: inspiring, desperately needed, worthy of emulation. ‘Unproductive’ certainly wasn’t one of them.”
“It is absolutely appropriate for thousands of people to protest at a Trump rally,” said Sanders to host Chris Hayes. Unfortunately, Senator Sanders would like those protesters to remain outside. “So, people want to be outside — they want to talk about his [Donald Trump’s] attacks on Mexicans, his outrageous attacks on Muslims, on women, on African-Americans — that is absolutely appropriate.” What is not appropriate in Sanders’ mind is moving that protest inside the venue, where it would garner real attention. Sanders said such protests are “counterproductive.” He concluded by saying, “Protests yes, disruptions no.”
This should not come as a surprise. It is a breath of fresh air for many liberals and progressives that Bernie Sanders has made it this far, but we must acknowledge Sanders really is “leftist-light” on some issues. Sanders is a great ambassador for social liberalism, but he cannot be a leftist revolutionary while toeing the mainstream liberal line on protest and disruption.
A piece on CounterPunch argues for a silent reaction to Donald Trump’s racism. “It is a mistake to shout down Trump and disrupt his rallies,” writes Jimmy Lohman. “Outside the rallies, anything goes: as we used to chant, ‘The streets belong to the people.’ But inside, opposition to the horrific specter of Trumpism is best served by silent protest.”
Silence defeats a billionaire loudmouth with unlimited airtime? How does that work?
Trump rallies are a toxic brew of hatred, often televised to a national audience. There might be a time for silent protest, but this is not it. The media’s journalistic malpractice in search of higher ratings leaves us no other choice. The people must take back the megaphone. If the media continues to reward Trump with free airtime, then Trump protestors have every right to try to use that airtime to call out his fascist bigotry.
But, even physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, someone I usually agree with, was stupendously wrong when he tweeted, “People who are anti-Trump are actually anti-Trump supporters — they oppose free citizens voting for the @realDonaldTrump”. Really Neil? I believe free speech allows these people to be anti-Trump or anti-Trump-supporters, and they don’t have to wait until election day to make it known. It was Trump who said, “There used to be consequences to protesting. There are none anymore.” He could not be more right, except not in the way he intended. Trump gets a 24/7 megaphone with millions of actively engaged xenophobic followers, but you and I must adopt a laissez-faire attitude about a dangerous nationalistic groundswell, at least until election day.
[C]onfining politics to the polling station automatically excludes a huge portion of the population, from undocumented immigrants (a favorite target of Trump’s) to young people (like the Latino high schoolers who heard taunts of “Trump! Trump!” and “Build the wall!” at a recent basketball game in Iowa) to the millions of American citizens, disproportionately African American, who have been stripped of the franchise because of felony convictions. Moreover, limiting politics to the act of voting fundamentally constrains the scope of social change we can bring about — and the reactionary forces that we can thwart.
– Trish Kahle (How to Stop Trump / Jacobin)
“It is a fair opinion to think Trump’s speech is offensive, problematic, or hateful,” writes Marc Randazza. “But, the First Amendment requires neither tact nor politeness. It requires that we permit all views to set up stalls in the marketplace of ideas, and we let that marketplace decide which ideas prevail.” Do these people ever stop to think about what they just wrote? Where is this marketplace? And when is it open for business? According to Randazza’s logic, Trump protesters are not active participants in this marketplace, but Trump and his supporters are. Yes, I agree that the “First Amendment requires neither tact nor politeness,” which means it applies to supporter and protester alike.
And in a sad moment from the president, in response to Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric, Barack Obama said, “We’ve seen misguided attempts to shut down that speech. However offensive it may be, we live in a country where free speech is one of the most important rights that we hold.” Mr. President, that free speech right also includes protest. One citizen using his or her free speech in response to another citizen’s free speech, even in protest, is not a First Amendment issue. And no, Obama didn’t say it was a First Amendment issue, but clearly it was implied. I know he knows better, but unfortunately many Americans do not.
Free speech means protection from government censorship. Free speech does not mean protection from ideas you don’t like. Trump is free to spin a web of lies while disparaging minorities, and we are free to reply in kind, even in protest.
Silence must never be our response to oppressive hateful rhetoric.