In March of this year, a journalist for CBS was arrested at a Donald Trump rally in Chicago. The entire event was captured on video, including the moment police threw Sopan Deb onto the ground. Deb did nothing wrong, and he identified himself as a journalist covering the Trump campaign, to no avail. That rally was cancelled due to violence between attendees and protesters.
A few days ago, Donald Trump used Twitter to “warn” The New York Times of a possible lawsuit, writing “My lawyers want to sue the failing @nytimes so badly for irresponsible intent. I said no (for now), but they are watching. Really disgusting.” His rant was inspired by Maureen Dowd, who, during an interview with CNN, said:
“I have confronted him [Trump] with many different things that seemed wrong to me. For instance, I asked him…I told him that it was wrong that there was violence being incited at his rallies and that reporters were getting roughed up and he paused, you’re right he did listen, but then he disagreed and said that he thought the violence added a frisson of excitement.”
Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s former campaign manager, and current pro-Trump contributor to CNN, grabbed a reporter for Breitbart earlier this year simply because she was trying to ask Trump a question. According to witnesses, the reporter, Michelle Fields, was “clearly roughed up,” and Fields’ boyfriend, Daily Caller senior editor Jaime Weinstein, Tweeted out “Trump always surrounds himself w thugs. Tonight thug Corey Lewandowski tried to pull my gf @MichelleFields to ground when she asked tough q.” Ms. Fields now writes for Huffington Post, and Breitbart is 100% in Trump’s corner.
Just a few days ago, Alex Thompson, a reporter for Vice, was arrested in the lobby of an Omni hotel while waiting for clarification of his press credentials. Thompson and his crew were attempting to cover a luncheon given by the Remembrance Project, a group that advocates on behalf for families with loved ones killed by undocumented immigrants. Thompson told the hotel staff, and the police, he was a journalist with Vice, and was arrested for trespassing. The Trump campaign claims they had nothing to do with Thompson’s arrest, but given the all-out war Donald Trump is waging against the First Amendment, one has to wonder.
During his rallies, Trump will often sneer and point at the reporter pool, calling them names, and his supporters will boo and hiss. Donald Trump despises any media source that tells the truth about him. Maureen Dowd told CNN Trump likes the violence at his rallies, and suddenly Trump’s lawyers want to sue the New York Times. Corey Lewandowski tries to throw Michelle Fields to the ground simply for doing her job, and suddenly, she’s writing for Huffington Post, and Steve Bannon is Trump’s new big kahuna. And of course, don’t forget that Fields’ old employer Breitbart is now the go-to source for all things pro-Trump, and alt-right.
There are people in this country voting for Donald Trump in less than two months. Many of those people are just like him: deplorable. They despise all that is good about the United States, particularly the united part. They want to ban people based on their religion, or their skin color. They believe Black Lives Matter is a terrorist organization. They want to “Make America Great Again” by going back to a time when being LGBT would often land someone in a state-run mental hospital, when African-Americans could not vote, were beaten and killed for walking on the same sidewalk as a white person, and when white, heterosexual, Christian men had all the power. And they want the First Amendment to only apply to them.
Remember the Duck Dynasty fiasco? The head of the family said some truly hateful and awful things about the LGBT community, and A&E suspended him. Conservatives went ballistic, typing all in caps that A&E was violating Phil Robertson’s First Amendment rights. The First Amendment protects us from the government, not private companies, or our employers, or even keyboard warriors on the internet. A&E was well within their rights as a private company to punish Phil Robertson for his comments; he just can’t be arrested for them.
But what if Donald Trump becomes president? With a conservative House, and conservative Supreme Court judges, just what kind of damage could he wreak upon the First Amendment? First, it is important to note the president cannot change the Constitution. That process takes place solely in the House:
The Constitution provides that an amendment may be proposed either by the Congress with a two-thirds majority vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate or by a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of the State legislatures. None of the 27 amendments to the Constitution have been proposed by constitutional convention. The Congress proposes an amendment in the form of a joint resolution. Since the President does not have a constitutional role in the amendment process, the joint resolution does not go to the White House for signature or approval. The original document is forwarded directly to NARA’s Office of the Federal Register (OFR) for processing and publication. The OFR adds legislative history notes to the joint resolution and publishes it in slip law format. The OFR also assembles an information package for the States which includes formal “red-line” copies of the joint resolution, copies of the joint resolution in slip law format, and the statutory procedure for ratification under 1 U.S.C. 106b.
The Archivist submits the proposed amendment to the States for their consideration by sending a letter of notification to each Governor along with the informational material prepared by the OFR. The Governors then formally submit the amendment to their State legislatures or the state calls for a convention, depending on what Congress has specified. In the past, some State legislatures have not waited to receive official notice before taking action on a proposed amendment. When a State ratifies a proposed amendment, it sends the Archivist an original or certified copy of the State action, which is immediately conveyed to the Director of the Federal Register. The OFR examines ratification documents for facial legal sufficiency and an authenticating signature. If the documents are found to be in good order, the Director acknowledges receipt and maintains custody of them. The OFR retains these documents until an amendment is adopted or fails, and then transfers the records to the National Archives for preservation.
A proposed amendment becomes part of the Constitution as soon as it is ratified by three-fourths of the States (38 of 50 States). When the OFR verifies that it has received the required number of authenticated ratification documents, it drafts a formal proclamation for the Archivist to certify that the amendment is valid and has become part of the Constitution. This certification is published in the Federal Register and U.S. Statutes at Large and serves as official notice to the Congress and to the Nation that the amendment process has been completed.
But could it happen? Could all those ignorant right wing politicians, who believe the media is somehow stifling conservatives’ freedom of speech, be convinced to amend the First Amendment? To perhaps make it a crime to write or say anything negative about a conservative president? Could they rewrite the most powerful and patriotic amendment, and create an environment similar to Russia, Iran, and North Korea?
Donald Trump has already been endorsed by the nation’s largest police union, a union that likes his “law and order” mentality. One of the many duties of police officers is to provide protection for lawful and nonviolent protests. Sadly, it seems that many police departments view men and women exercising their right to protest-a right guaranteed by the First Amendment-as criminals. Perhaps Donald Trump will turn our nation’s police into his own private army, much like Michael Bloomberg did in New York.
On November 8, we have a choice. We can vote for a flawed candidate who has made mistakes, and apologized for those mistakes. A candidate who is not jumping at the bit to use nuclear weapons. A candidate who does not have a crush on Vladimir Putin. A candidate who will protect a woman’s right to choose, who will nominate rational people to the Supreme Court, who will keep DADT and DOMA in the past.
Or we can vote for the Nazi.