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Monday, September 25, 2017

There used to be this thing called "principles"

by digby

The following is from David Leonhardt in the NY Times:

“To disagree well you must first understand well,” my colleague Bret Stephens argued in a Saturday speech titled, “The Dying Art of Disagreement,” which I encourage you to read. “You have to read deeply, listen carefully, watch closely.”

I’m guessing that many readers of this newsletter instinctively agree with the pro athletes who have criticized President Trump. But how much have you thought about why so many of your fellow Americans disagree with those athletes’ protests?

Clearly, racism plays a role, at least in Trump’s case. But the debate isn’t only about race. If nothing else, listening to the other side will sharpen your own counterarguments.

At National Review, Rich Lowry said the N.F.L. controversy was an example of Trump’s “gut-level political savvy” and highlighted “why he’s president.”

“He takes a commonly held sentiment — most people don’t like the NFL protests — and states it in an inflammatory way guaranteed to get everyone’s attention and generate outrage among his critics,” Lowry writes. “When those critics lash back at him, Trump is put in the position of getting attacked for a fairly commonsensical view.”

Patrick Ruffini, a conservative political strategist who’s worth following on Twitter, wrote: “A lot of people are operating under the assumption that Kaepernick’s protest is popular. It isn’t.” Ruffini added: “False assumptions about public opinion make opposition to Trump less effective.”

And Ben Shapiro, the conservative writer, tweeted: “What the left sees: People kneeling to protest in favor of the right to kneel. What viewers see: People kneeling during the anthem.”

For smart takes from the anti-Trump side, try John Legend (yes, that John Legend) in Slate, Jamelle Bouie on Twitter, Lindsay Gibbs at Think Progress, Jelani Cobb in The New Yorker and Samuel Freedman and Charles Blow in The Times.

Ok. I read those right wing views. Yes, kneeling for the flag is unpopular among a bunch of people. I'm sure all protests against things people like or respect make some people angry. Likewise, protests against things that upset people are popular among the people who agree with them.

So what else is new? If protests didn't make some people unhappy there probably wouldn't be a need for them in the first place.

When I was a kid flag-waving was just a big a thing as it is today and there were protests that makes these look puny, like the March on Washington for instance. They made some people very angry too. But what has held the country together through these fights has been the corny line by Patrick Henry (and Voltaire) "I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend your right to say it." It's something even little kids understand.

Trump doesn't agree with that. He's an authoritarian president calling for people to be fired and blackballed for saying something he doesn't agree with. It won't take much for him (and his little dog Jeff Sessions) to decide that "something needs to be done" legally because it's a threat to the nation. He's working on "the Antifa threat" as well. He's already banning Muslims refugees and building invisible walls.

There have always been plenty of people in this country who think free speech is only for me and not for thee. What's different here is that we have a president who isn't even trying to maintain the larger principle and is instead promoting the idea that some people should be shut up by any means necessary.

He wouldn't fight to the death to your right to say anything he doesn't agree with. In fact, he's one step away from declaring that everyone must agree with him.