Donald Trump had another big night on Tuesday, winning at least three states, including winner-take-all Florida and its 99 delegates. This despite protesters disrupting Trump rallies in Ohio and Kansas and shutting Trump down in Chicago.
The protests have both pro-Trump and anti-Trump factions invoking the First Amendment. Pro-Trumpers say the protesters are violating Trump’s and their own right to free speech. Anti-Trumpers say they are exercising their own. The media are all over the road. The worst assertion is that some sort of “balance” or “compromise” between the two groups’ rights is necessary. It isn’t.
First, let’s get the First Amendment out of the way. There is no way any private citizen can violate the First Amendment. The First Amendment doesn’t govern the citizens. It governs the government. It begins, “Congress shall make no law…”
Originally, this restriction applied only to the federal government. Since a 1947 Supreme Court decision, the courts have considered the First Amendment applicable to state governments as well. But in no case does it apply to private citizens. So, let’s please dispense with statements that include “violating their First Amendment rights,” in relation to Trump, his supporters or their opponents.
The right of free speech doesn’t come from the First Amendment. The right preexists the government. The First Amendment merely guarantees the government won’t violate it, in keeping with the purpose of government itself, according to the Declaration of Independence: to secure these (natural, preexistent) rights.” The First Amendment recognizes the right preexists government explicitly when it says “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech.”
We don’t talk enough about natural, inalienable rights. “Inalienable” means they can’t be taken away, not even by majority vote. So how do we know where one person’s rights end and another person’s begin? The answer can be summed up in two words: property rights.
Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.