In Schenck v. United States in 1919, Oliver Wendel Holmes, one of the U.S.’s greatest supreme court justices wrote that “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.” While clearly a democracy needs to hear from all sorts of different viewpoints, Mr. Trump has, in my view, gone far over the line of decency and I question the wisdom of the Republican Party and even private companies such as CNN and the other networks for giving him so much air time.
By singling out group after group and lumping people of the same religion or ethnic group together with terrorists and drug cartels, he threatens to undermine the very social fabric that has made the United States what it is!
In a live performance on CNN last Thursday night, Donald Trump pushed back against Pope Francis’ condemnation of his plan to deport millions of Mexicans and build a wall along the border. He routinely bashes Muslims and Mexicans, and has now targeted the spiritual leader of 1.2 billion people in the world and almost 70 million in the United States with his particular brand of sarcasm and ridicule.
Martin Niemöller, a Protestant cleric who lived in Nazi Germany, later wrote and spoke out about the responsibility of civil society to stand up for principle against the forces of darkness, ignorance, and hate. He said:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Strength from diversity
In one of her books, Day of Empire, Yale University’s Amy Shua makes the case that great countries have always been tolerant of diversity and brought people from all over the world to build their societies. I have written about the idea of the melting pot in the U.S. in other posts and am deeply concerned that Mr. Trump’s rhetoric can damage the basic decency that most people in the U.S. share and put its greatest strength at risk.
A nomination for Trump ?
The only good news coming out of the Republican South Carolina primary which was held yesterday is that Trump’s support appears to peak out at just over 30% and that is not enough for him to win the Republican nomination. As explained in another post, a few weeks ago, the current contests are held to select delegates to the conventions that the parties will have in the summer.
One casualty of the South Carolina primary is Jeb Bush who has officially “suspended” his campaign and the big question is if his supporters will shift to Marco Rubio who received 22.5% of the vote against Trump’s 32.5%. According to Republican rules, primaries held on March 15th and later will be “winner takes all” meaning that a 0.1% point lead will give candidates all of a state’s delegates, at least in the first rounds of voting at the convention in Cleveland. 29 States are affected for a total of 1,381 of the 2,472 total.
While delegates are bound to vote for a specific candidate in the first round as determined by the voters, depending on the state, they may be released to vote their conscience in the second or third round thus creating a possibility for the Republican Leadership to rally the convention around a consensus candidate such as Senator Rubio (Florida) or Governor Kasich (Ohio). While I might disagree with each one on a a number of topics, both of these men, at least, would not shout fire in a crowded theatre and seem to understand how diversity makes the Unites States strong.