For starters, leftist activists are far more likely than anyone else to use sidewalk chalk and should be pushing to dispense with existing, rarely enforced campus regulations. The medium is unusually suited to the powerless, too: It is cheap, easy to use, and very hard to suppress. Yet they’re signing on to surveillance and punishment for chalk-wielding activism, as if it hasn’t even occurred to them that their allies stand to lose the most from future crackdowns, whereas Donald Trump 2016 could foreswear sidewalk chalk forever without suffering from it at all. I don’t know whether these students have an incoherent theory of how power works, or haven’t thought the matter through, but future leftist activists may rue their behavior.
What’s more, if the sidewalk-chalker is unmasked and punished, the effect will be to fuel the popularity of Trump 2016, not to undermine it. This is so obvious to everyone outside the bubble of campus leftism that I begin to wonder if activists at Emory don’t understand that, or just don’t actually care about outcomes beyond their bubble.
At ages 18 to 22, many of us were less able to see the world through the eyes of others than in earlier or later years. I find it easy to forgive college students, whether activists or otherwise, when they display that quality. It doesn’t make them bad people. Still, good people can harm important causes. I wish the ideological cohort that makes privilege so central to their analysis would expend more effort reflecting on this fact: Those on track to earn degrees from prestigious universities are unusual in their ability to indulge rhetoric and actions without reflecting on how they will be perceived by fellow citizens or undermine the rights of the powerless.
Put more simply: Please stop undermining #NeverTrump and the culture of free speech that will be especially vital if the billionaire with authoritarian tendencies is elected president.