Wyoming Liberty Group
It’s been a weird week—well, month—for the First Amendment. We’ve seen good and bad portions in the GOP platform, a stupid movie trailer that the White House doesn’t know how to handle, and even a West Wing reunion that gives the lie to campaign finance reform rhetoric. Here in Wyoming, us WyLiberty attorneys went to federal court to argue for Free Speech, literally and figuratively. We don’t know the verdict yet, but we did largely win over the editors at the Casper Star Tribune, and anyone who follows the Trib and WyLiberty knows that’s no small feat.
A funny thing happens when you depend on bureaucrats to protect your First Amendment rights. To borrow from a quote of a Federal Election Commission lawyer I squared off with at a recent hearing, “There’s no guarantee.” No guarantee the government won’t investigate you for speaking “too much.” No guarantee the government will even-handedly decide who has to comply with cumbersome regulations under the law and who won’t. No guarantee.
Apparently the Obama Administration wants us to have our free speech and eat it, too. Following the attack in Libya last week that left Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans dead, less serious attacks (I don’t call them “protests” when there is violence) in Egypt, Yemen, Niger, Tunisia, etc., the White House is working diligently to pin the blame for these attacks on a fake trailer for a movie, “Innocence of Muslims,” that criticizes the Islamic religion and its prophet Mohammed. The trailer (or whatever it is) is available on YouTube.
Last week I blogged excitedly about the GOP’s position on campaign finance reform in their 2012 platform. Unfortunately, I titled the blog post “Free Speech Gets Its Due on the Republican Platform.” As far as campaign finance goes, this is correct, but there is still room for improvement in the broader sense.
It is hard to avoid self-righteousness and arrogance in politics, whether professionally involved or engaged as a citizen. I certainly have moments when my zealous advocacy for free speech crosses the line. When one loses his or her cool over an issue in public it is nearly always a mistake: it signals an end to debate and engagement and becomes, at best, a sermon for the choir. As a result, one may feel temporarily invigorated at the chorus of amens that follow, but more often than not the congregation ends up shrinking. One keeps the attention of everyone who already agreed, and loses those who may have been convinced by reasoned discourse.
Much to the surprise of many—not least President Obama—Obamacare’s individual mandate to purchase health insurance is a tax under Article I, § 8, cl. 1 of the Constitution.
I know what you’re thinking: why did President Obama raise taxes during a recession? More on that in a moment.
- Federal government to gag grassroots
Our tangled American history illustrates that those in power usually don’t care much for vigorous public criticism. An unfortunate national pastime includes attempts to silence those with unpopular views, dissenting voices, or minorities. In most instances the First Amendment ended these repressive acts, giving rise to our national civil rights movement, protecting dissenters of every stripe, and even guarding the right of political free speech. But these rights remain in peril due to continued efforts by some to silence and intimidate their opponents.