Politicians, commentators and citizens in the ideological middle have tried for too long to walk lines that represent everyone but offend no one. Those in that middle ground must now be clear, no matter who gets ruffled.
When the American democratic experiment was started, Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson debated tooth and claw over what kind of government the nation should have, using language so clear that their words remain relevant two centuries later. President Abraham Lincoln was so clear about preserving a united nation that hundreds of thousands of citizens were willing to fight and die to make it happen.
Government officials often operate in gray areas. Compromises and diplomacy lace together decision-making. They often choose words carefully and avoid details, not to hide positions, but to include the largest number of people and ideas possible in their deliberations.
In the current political environment, however, the most extreme messengers are the ones being very clear.
Last weekend, a video appeared at a meeting of President Donald Trump’s supporters and was posted online. It portrays images of real people and news organizations being massacred by a Trump-faced assassin in a building labeled as “The Church of Fake News.”
The video greenlights killing targets of Trump’s constant negative characterizations, including members of news organizations like CNN, PBS and HuffPost. For good measure, it throws in images of former President Obama, Sen. Mitt Romney and even deceased Sen. John McCain being killed.
The White House denounced the video. President Trump, himself, has not. He should, immediately and firmly.
This video may reinforce conspiracy theories and agitated political opinions among those willing to watch it.
Some argued that the video is political satire or campaign material useful for attracting new votes.
This video is neither of those things. It is a provocation of violence that crosses the free-speech line.
In 1969 in Brandenburg v. Ohio, the U.S. Supreme Court set an “imminent lawless action” standard for limiting the right of free speech, allowing state regulation of speech advocating violence.
This week, those in the political middle, which is most Americans, must be as clear as those on the extremes. We must be clear that we do not condone hate speech or hate videos. We must insist that the leader of the most powerful free nation in the world personally reject them as well.