Donald Trump

Trump vs. Clinton Is Terrible News for Fans of Free Speech and the First Amendment

Both candidates have abysmal records on First Amendment issues.


The impending presidential contest between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is depressing for many reasons. One reason it that both candidates have abysmal records on free speech and they both seem fundamentally hostile to very idea of the First Amendment placing any constitutional limits on government power.

Consider Hillary Clinton. As my colleague Matt Welch has documented, Clinton's "long war on free speech" includes censorship crusades against rap music, video games, movies, and television. And we're not just talking about ratings systems and warning labels here. She's also supported federal laws that would penalize the makers and distributors of so-called offensive entertainment. Clinton is also in favor of empowering the federal government to spy on private communications through such tools as anti-encryption back doors on iPhones and other devices.

And then of course there is Hillary Clinton's well-known view that federal authorities should be able to prevent her political opponents from distributing a documentary film that's critical of her in the days before a federal election. That particular issue was litigated before the U.S. Supreme Court in a little case called Citizens United v. FEC. Among other things, Citizens United featured Clinton and her pro-censorship allies squaring off against the American Civil Liberties Union, which supported Citizens United and its First Amendment right to distribute a documentary film about a political candidate in the United States of America.

Now consider Donald Trump, who has effectively become the GOP nominee thanks to Ted Cruz dropping out of the race last night. Trump's hostility to constitutionally limited government is well known (Trump has even cheered Franklin Roosevelt's notorious internment of Japanese Americans). But Trump seems particularly antagonistic towards the First Amendment. For example, among other foul proposals, Trump has advocated the forced closing of mosques, a truly authoritarian measure that is plainly at odds with the First Amendment and its protections for religious liberty. Trump also wants the government to censor parts of the internet in order to eliminate speech that he thinks is dangerous (as does Hillary Clinton). What's more, Trump favors gutting libel law so that it will be easier for him to sue—and thus silence—any critics who dare to write unkind things about him. Just like the biggest left-wing advocates of political correctness on campus, Trump wants to trash the First Amendment in order to create a "safe space" for himself.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have a lot in common when it comes to free speech and the First Amendment, and none of it is good.