Our latest reader to email hello@, Robert Hochman, offers some great recommendations in response to that question—the best way to protest Trump—that don’t involve threatening free speech, which Robert defends here with passion and principle:
I’m a lawyer, but I don’t think the law of free speech is all that helpful in thinking through the delicate question of how one should either tactically or morally protest Trump. Whether he crosses the line to incitement, or merely dances on its edge, Trump is contemptible. What is legally permissible public speech is far broader than what our political culture ought to expect from candidates.
Whether Trump is aiding and abetting battery by offering to pay legal fees of his supporters who punch protestors is a nice exam question for law school. Whether he is “inciting” violence by lamenting the good ol’ days when protesters were taken out on a stretcher is something law professors and students love to argue about.
But nothing turns on the answer. And that’s because what we should cherish about our political culture is the miracle—and it really should be thought of as like a miracle—that the most powerful nation the world has ever seen removes its most powerful person from office every four or eight years through an orderly, nonviolent, democratic process. This so familiar to us that it is taken for granted. Maybe we have become so accustomed to it that we can’t really believe that someone has come along who is threatening that norm. But if we do see it, and can recognize it, it is certainly our duty to figure out the most effective way to stop it. So the need to protest Trump is clear, whether his speech is lawful or not.
I think the comments of one of your readers, Alycee, is fundamentally off when she asserts that it is morally OK to prevent Trump from speaking even though it would not have been morally OK to prevent Obama from speaking in 2008.