One of the more disturbing trends in recent years is the rise of so-called “safe spaces” on college campuses. Allegedly, the purpose of this isolated bubbles to shield college students from speech they might find offensive.
In practice, however, these “safe spaces” are used to silence opposing views and turn college campuses into progressive echo chambers. Thankfully, most conservatives recognize the absurdity of these type of antics when they come from liberal college professors. Unfortunately, many prominent conservatives have recently shown a willingness to turn a blind eye to similar behavior when it comes from their own side of the aisle.
In general, conservatives have a solid track record of supporting free speech. However, many are currently giving Donald Trump a free pass to bully dissidents within the party into submission. It is extremely revealing to compare Trump’s treatment of protesters at his rallies to the reactions of Marco Rubio and John Kasich in similar situations.
When Rubio’s concession speech was interrupted by a Trump supporter in March, he responded with a graceful smile and a promise that the protester “won’t get beat up at our rally.” Kasich responded in a similar fashion when he was interrupted, joking that “when you went to college in the 1970’s you appreciate a peaceful protest. In both cases, these candidates dealt with the protesters calmly and respectfully.
This stands in sharp contrast to the way Trump handles dissent. Trump has repeated stopped in the middle of his speeches to forcibly remove protesters from his rallies. Additionally, he has gone farther and promised to pay the legal fees of his supporters who resort to violence against those who disagree with him. There is little difference between this behavior and that of the PC police who currently terrorize many college campuses.
The reason for this similar behavior is that Trump, like many modern-day liberals, is afraid of being seriously and thoughtfully challenged on his political positions. Instead of trying to defend himself with an argument, Trump has repeatedly shown a preference for violently silencing dissent. Even at the Republican debates, he refused to engage his opponents on policy differences and instead spent his time assigning each of them demeaning nicknames such as “Little Marco” and “Lying Ted.”
This tendency that Trump has demonstrated makes him utterly unfit for the office of President. Free debate and the free exchange of ideas are essential to a healthy republic because they allow citizens to make reasonable, informed decisions. Once these are taken away, politicians no longer need to justify themselves to the people based on the merits of their policies. Instead, we will become a nation led by demagogues who rule by appealing to the lowest passions of the people.
Sadly, Trump seems to have gotten a free pass from conservatives on this issue. Many are likely hesitant to attack critique Trump because they are afraid of aiding Hillary Clinton in the election. This is the wrong attitude. As conservatives, we must hold ourselves to a higher standard and make sure that our actions are consistent with our principles. No one, not even our presidential nominees, should be exempt from criticism when they fall short.