September 1, 2020
Live Free or Die…
The Privilege of Freedom and the Power of Speech
Growing up in a small coastal town in the great Live Free or Die state of New Hampshire, I was always encouraged to speak my mind. Political debate was a regular part of our family dinner conversations, and all opinions, while not always agreed with, were certainly welcome.
Whether it was at the dinner table, in the coffee shop, or in my case, on the playground… politics always came up. Debate was welcome. Civility was expected… And indeed, whether you were a Reagan supporter or a Mondale supporter… you still got together on Saturday nights as friends.
My father was (and still is) a bleeding-heart liberal from a large Irish Catholic family. Last week, I told you how his own father worked 100 hours a week as a night watchman at the City Yard, earning 50 cents an hour. With eight kids, money was tight and his family relied on the church for help. My father and his siblings have never forgotten how hard things were… And this experience has influenced their political thinking as adults. No matter how successful they’ve become, they are still the same group of scrappy Irish kids from Stark Street.
My favorite example of my father’s philosophy on government is what I like to call his “Christmas Tree Tax”… You see, as a teenager, my dad ran a Christmas tree business in town with his brothers each winter. Tree prices were on a sliding scale. If you drove up in a beat-up pickup truck packed full of kids… you got one price. If you drove up in a Cadillac? Well, you got another. The Christmas Tree Tax was effectively an Elizabeth Warren “Tax the Rich” proposal before its time!
Given all this, you’d think my father might have been a little put-off when he met my mother, a Barry Goldwater supporter, at a Democratic Party fundraiser. (My mother tagged along with one of her best girlfriends, whose uncle had two tickets to spare. My mom was willing to put her politics aside for a night out with her best friend.) Goldwater was the Donald Trump of his day… a bold, brash personality, a proponent of the individual over collective community, and someone whom the traditional conservative elites viewed as an extremist.
Granted, my mother was quite beautiful (she still is). In fact, I used to confuse her with Wonder Woman as a kid and speculated that she was sneaking off to tape her TV show while I was stuck in nursery school all day. But, seriously… a Goldwater supporter? Think of a lifelong Democrat, my dad, getting together with a champion for Goldwater-style conservatism, my mom. It’s like a Biden supporter marrying a Trump supporter! That sort of thing just doesn’t happen anymore… And as the product of such a union, let me say – that’s a shame.
You see, in today’s world, political party has become a kind of religion. People over-identify with their party or their candidate… and are threatened by any viewpoints that might counter their religion. Conservatives are viewed with much disdain, in part, because those in control of corporate America and Hollywood identify as liberal and shun any perceived threats to their chosen philosophy. As such, those on the Right are looked down upon, viewed as dumb, uneducated, sexist, racist… did I mention, deplorable? It’s no wonder conservatives were reluctant to tell pollsters how they felt in the 2016 election.
On that fateful November election night evening in 2016, as the glass ceiling at the Javitz Center in New York City was getting ready to be shattered in Hillary Clinton’s honor, I joined the conference call with the decision desk team for Fox News, where I then worked. “It’s going to be an early night,” they told us. “Our exit polls are all in… and Hillary Clinton should have this wrapped up by 9 p.m.”
I remember thinking perhaps I’d get home in time to see my kids before they fell asleep.
I was on-air on Fox Business until 2 a.m… And by the time I got home to our New York City apartment in the wee hours of the morning, it was official: Donald Trump had been elected the 45th president of the United States.
Almost instantaneously, the backlash against conservatives reverberated across America. And, in the years since, the disdain for the Right has grown so intense that the political discord now threatens the very fabric of who we are as a nation. Freedom is something to be forever cherished. This includes our freedom to protect ourselves, our freedom to prosper, and our freedom to speak freely. Our First Amendment must be reaffirmed every day… not just in the courts (which is fine when needed), but via our daily interactions with others at work, in the press, and in our schools. Tolerance and respect are critical to our freedom.
News outlets that are willing to present all sides, including even unpopular sides, so that readers and viewers are afforded the chance to make their own informed opinions, are critical to the promotion of intellectual diversity in our society. The New York Times, once considered one of our nation’s greatest papers, failed to preserve our First Amendment when it pulled Senator Tom Cotton’s opinion piece, apologized for publishing it, and parted ways with the editorial team responsible for his “Send in the Troops” column.
A sitting U.S. senator recommended we allow federal troops to help manage increasing violence in some American cities – but because staffers at the paper didn’t agree and were highly offended, the paper determined the senator’s viewpoint should not have been printed. In doing so, the New York Times failed its readership and proved its bias toward telling its readers what to think instead of arming readers with all sides.
Meanwhile, American universities once prided themselves on diversity of opinion. The college campus was supposed to be one place where students could think freely, without fear of criticism, and ideas could truly be explored. As such, our academic institutions were helping to keep our First Amendment safe. Yet every week it seems we learn of new biases on college campuses.
Just days ago, it was discovered that an Iowa State professor in a class teaching written online communication wrote in her syllabus that she would dismiss any student from her class if they submitted work that opposed Black Lives Matter, gay marriage, abortion, and other social issues. Though the school’s administration did address the issue with her (thanks to coverage in various media outlets), too often this refusal to understand, listen to, let alone respect the other side of an argument is commonplace at the very institutions where these subjects should be thoroughly discussed and debated. As a college student myself, I typically got As on my written papers… that is, until I dared submit one on the importance of school vouchers in securing equal access to education opportunities. Somehow that one landed me a big ole B-minus!
Like the New York Times, universities are governed by groupthink and only one opinion is tolerated. Professors, administrators, and fellow students throw their hands over their ears and refuse to listen. This failure to expand one’s mind and understand all sides will result in a less productive society if allowed to continue. These are not intellectuals… These are intellectual babies.
Moreover, the president himself should be cautious about how he handles the media, which is quite obviously out to get him however it can. While some journalists clearly don’t like him, it is still their job to always question the administration’s policies in order to best inform the public. While they often get carried away in their excessive criticism of the president, he too gets carried away in his criticism of them. All that said, it’s clear these days that some members of the so-called “press” are acting more like political advocates than they are journalists.
The discord cannot continue… We must learn to respect one another – the Left and the Right. For a society to progress and grow, we need real, honest, intellectual debate. We cannot live in a world where half the population is afraid to speak up for fear the culture police might cancel them. I refuse to live like that and have made it quite clear I will always speak my mind – regardless of whether some, including the “higher ups,” may be offended.
As the president said in his acceptance speech of his party’s nomination last Thursday…
Our country wasn’t built by cancel culture, speech codes, and soul-crushing conformity. We are NOT a nation of timid spirits. We are a nation of fierce, proud, and independent American patriots.
That independence, that freedom, that ability to think and speak freely is what has made us such a success. This should not be controversial.
We all have our biases. I, of course, have mine. Contrary to what some believe, my biases are not political, but rather economic. Indeed, the politicization of our economy is what I’ve found most troubling… Economics need not be political.
Hey, JFK cut taxes! I am a fierce independent who supports the candidate with the best policy ideas to improve our economy. It is critical, especially now, that we work together to create a society where everyone has equal access to the American Dream. Free-market capitalism, while not perfect, sure beats the alternative. We must open our channels of communication to discuss, debate, and synthesize the best ideas for America’s future.
My parents worked through their Goldwater issues… It’s time Americans work through their Trump issues. All voices should be heard – and all voices should be welcomed.
Now here are some of the stories we’re reading…
Trish’s Take: The U.S. Postal ‘Service’ Is a Badly Run Business
In the age of e-mail, FaceTime, and multiple instant-chat services, we just don’t need mail as much as we once did… Mail volume since 2006 has declined an estimated 33% and yet the U.S. Postal Service continues to grow and grow – losing billions of taxpayer dollars in the process.
WHO Heaps Praise on Sweden’s COVID Strategy
The Nordic nation imposed far fewer restrictions on movement than others, and instead relied on Swedes to act responsibly and embrace the guidelines laid out by the country’s health authorities.
Warren Buffett and the $300,000 Haircut
There’s a reason the Oracle of Omaha is an ultrabillionaire as he turns 90: He grasped the power of compounding at the age of 10. The sooner the rest of us fully understand it, the better off we’ll be.
The Real Estate Boom Can Continue for Years. These Stocks Could Benefit Now.
Home-buyer interest has soared, fueled by demographic trends, ultralow interest rates, and urban flight spurred by the coronavirus pandemic. At the same time, a tighter-than-usual supply of existing homes and chronic underbuilding of new homes has led to bidding wars, rising prices, and a run-up in home-builder stocks.
And let us know what you’re reading at [email protected].
Executive Editor, American Consequences
With P.J. O’Rourke and the Editorial Staff
September 1, 2020