Sometimes supporters of Bernie Sanders go to political rallies and yell at people. To Alan Dershowitz, this means they’re infringing upon people’s free speech:
Several weeks ago, for example, dozens of Black Lives Matter activists infiltrated a Donald Trump rally and forced the organizers to cancel due to security concerns, after they became involved in heated confrontations with Trump’s supporters. Whatever one may think of Trump’s policies, there is no excuse for preventing the candidate from expressing them at a political rally. They abridged both Trump’s right to free expression and the ability of thousands of their fellow citizens to participate in the political process.
To be honest, I’m not crazy about groups like Black Lives Matter or Code Pink or whoever doing this kind of stuff, but as far as I know your free speech can’t be infringed upon by the government. There are plenty of other ways in which speech is restricted whether we like it or not. Again, I’m not on board with the tactics Sanders supporters have employed, but being a dickhead at a rally isn’t really what I’d call violating someone’s first amendment rights.
And the reason I wouldn’t call it that is because no one forced Trump to cancel that rally. No one forced Bill Clinton to clumsily engage Black Lives Matter protesters. There are plenty of reports of police officers using various tactics to disperse protesters, and that Chicago rally that Dershowitz refers to was canceled completely at the decision of Trump and his team, as the police chief never told the Trump campaign that they should do so.
Everyone is right to condemn the violence that took place on behalf of the protesters at the Chicago rally, but the critique against protesters has extended to their right to protest at all, as Dershowitz demonstrates. And what’s really scary about these groups to Dershowitz is this:
Much like the Sanders campaign, many of [these groups] are dominated by Occupy Wall Street veterans, whose brand of unfocused revolutionary politics was widely derided by Democrats and Republicans alike in 2011.
Well, yeah, the Occupy Wall Street movement was widely derided by Republican politicians and their mouthpieces at the likes of Fox News, but it was an incredibly large group that consisted of more than just the hard-left fringe.
But there’s a bigger point to be made here. I wouldn’t classify Occupy as having “unfocused revolutionary politics,” mostly because what they advocated for was financial reform which was never, ever going to take us out of a capitalistic system (ergo, not all that revolutionary), but they were unfocused. They never really organized coherently and steadfastly refused to appoint any leaders or speakers, unlike the Tea Party.
The Tea Party, on the other hand, was well-funded enough to get tons of their people into office at the national level in more than half of the states. (That of course does not count the number of officeholders in local municipalities that identify with the Tea Party.) These activists had an actual effect on the country, like their shutdown of the government that cost $20 billion and left 800,000 people without a paycheck. They’ve pursued a ruthless campaign against women. The Tea Party has had real, tangible, long-term effects on American discourse and policy.
That’s real power. That’s a hell of a lot more than going to a Trump rally and shouting. But Dershowitz is indignant that these people are dangerous, more dangerous than the far-right politicians holding office who have the ability to introduce damaging legislation. Sure.