You’d think that Americans would love the First Amendment, which gives every ordinary yokel on Twitter the right to say the president is a fool and the police chief is incompetent and the chairman of the board might profitably be replaced by a not-especially-gifted chimpanzee. But it isn’t very popular at all: Gutting the First Amendment is one of the top priorities of the Democratic party, which seeks to revoke its protection of political speech — i.e., the thing it’s really there to protect — so that they can put restrictions on political activism, which restrictions they call “campaign-finance reform.” They abominate the Supreme Court’s solid First Amendment decision in Citizens United, a case that involved not “money in politics” but the basic free-speech question of whether political activists should be allowed to show a film critical of Hillary Rodham Clinton in the days before an election. (Making a film and distributing it costs money, you see, hence “money in politics.”) They lost that one, but every Democrat in Harry Reid’s Senate — every one of them — voted to repeal the First Amendment.
Right-wing populists, too, are an illiberal bunch, and they would be entirely happy — for the moment — to see the executive branch empowered to harass the editors of the New York Times or to silence lefty television talkers such as Rachel Maddow. They are repeating the progressives’ mistake: imagining what their guy could do with vast new antidemocratic powers while never bothering to consider that the other side’s guy is probably going to get in there one of these days and enjoy the same powers. I wonder whether the Obama administration would have decided that assassinating American citizens for the crime of being “the Osama bin Laden of Facebook” was really such a good idea if they had known that Donald Trump would be the next man to enjoy that illegitimate power.