My dislike for Donald Trump as a potential president of the United States is second to none, even as I think he is having a clarifying effect on national politics.
Among other things, his and Bernie Sanders' strong showings so far underscore that the major parties are far weaker than they appear. Hooray for that.
Trump is also forcing Republicans to contemplate the stupidity, inanity, and ugliness of their basic ideology. For all the #NeverTrump sentiment among GOP stalwarts, they can't quite admit that Trump isn't stealing their party from them. Rather, he is the perfect distillation of their longstanding sentiments, especially when it comes to immigration policy.
In a must-read piece at Columbia Journalism Review, Bill Wyman—late of NPR, Salon, Chicago Reader, and other haunts of the left-friendly media—points to another way that Donald Trump is causing consternation among a different type of elite.
There's one complicated Media vs. Trump story playing out that's been overlooked. I speak of the media coverage of the Trump protests that have disrupted many of his appearances and, somewhat regrettably, they leave me having to stand up for Donald Trump. Why? Because the First Amendment does not take sides, not even against pumpkin-haired, nonsense-spewing, bloviating demagogues.
Wyman runs through the litany of the dozen or so stories of Trump supporters sucker-punching protesters as they're being hauled away is is egregious, to be sure, but it's hardly goon squad tactics or, as Rachel Maddow suggests, some sort of complicated form of staged violence straight out of 1930s Germany.
Wyman raises a different point, one that implicates a media that is willing to chew over every aspect of Trump rallies except the notion that "the protesters are in the wrong."
One sentiment you almost never hear outside of Fox News itself was that, by any standard of American political discourse, however objectionable one might find Trump's rhetoric, the protesters are in the wrong. The Trump events themselves are peaceful; they were being disrupted by outsiders making it impossible to hear the candidate that voters showed up to see.
Ah, but what about the protester's free speech rights? Well, what is it exactly the protesters are targeting? These were people coming out to hear a candidate for public office. It's often overlooked, but the First Amendment also protects the rights of peaceable assembly. Again, you can disagree with Trump's rhetoric, but he has a right to share it publicly and those gathered have a right to hear it. A selective enforcement of the Constitution that lets opponents of the speech silence it plainly violates the document's spirit.
I think that's about right. And such an analysis leads directly to Wyman's conclusion, which is about a lot more than whether Donald Trump gets the GOP nomination or not.
If the people opposing him can't get their message out without using anti-American tactics—and if we in the media don't call them on it—we all cede the high ground. Is our democracy so weak it can't handle Donald Trump?
We need new parties in America. Whether they actually take on new names is anyone's guess, but the long-term trend is clear: We're sick and tired of the Dems and the Reps as they currently put themselves forward. Yes, yes, one of them wins every presidential election, sometimes even by more than 50 percent of the vote. But fewer and fewer of us identify as either Team Red or Team Blue because they are awful hangovers (at best) from the 20th century.
None of the major-party candidates has any fucking idea of how to lead America in a 21st century that is already dwindling away. Think of it. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both hate Uber and defend a taxicab system that dates back to the 1920s! This, as we're starting serious conversations about driverless cars, for christ's sake. They're equally as bad on stuff like Net Neutrality, where they will let another ancient and useless Coolidge-era entity control the internet. On the Republican side, you've got clowns such as Trump and Cruz, who have called for the forcible expulsion of 12 million illegals plus as many as 4 million kids who are probably U.S. citizens. They pretend as if such a plan wouldn't necessarily create a "show your papers" police state. The main argument between Trump and Cruz is which one is more serious about not letting any of those deportees back into the country. Each has talked about massive military internventions in the Middle East as if we haven't been there for the past 15 years.
So yeah, we need new parties, or some new wine poured into new bottles at the very least. And we need a new operating system for the 21st century before it's already over. A good chunk of the code for that new OS has already been written, and it's at the heart of Wyman's CJR story: freedom of speech (and assembly, too). Never before has speech been more plentiful and more protected. And more under attack (think the FCC, calls for ending Citizen's United, trigger warning, microaggressions, you name it).
But because the media's business models (which in many ways were predicated upon being able to monopolize speech both through market power and government regulations) are breaking down, we have a media that really doesn't understand the centrality of speech to everything good and decent to the American Experiment. Instead, you get reporters who wear their preferences on their sleeves and no longer understand (if they ever did) that free speech takes no sides.