Issues were generally ignored during the 2016 election campaign, with media coverage concentrating on what atrocious things Donald Trump has said and the latest revelations in the Clinton scandals. The media generally ignored how both major party candidates are very far right on First Amendment issues. The First Amendment has finally come under discussion in response to a tweet from Donald Trump (which appears to be in response to a story Trump saw on Fox):
Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 29, 2016
Trump tweeted: “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!”
This puts Donald Trump to the right of Antonin Scalia. As I noted following his death, this was an issue where Scalia sided with civil libertarians. Scalia has voted for a Supreme Court decision which ruled that the First Amendment protected the right to burn the American flag. In contrast, Hillary Clinton has sponsored legislation to make flag burning a felony.
This puts Trump on the same side of Hillary Clinton, once again showing how Trump and Clinton are far more alike than many partisans supporting either candidate will ever admit. As is often the case, Trump has found a position somewhat to the right of Clinton’s by bringing up loss of citizenship. Both the prohibition on flag burning and the suggested penalty of loss of citizenship are unconstitutional.
It is a shame that an entire election went by with so little discussion of how both candidates hold positions which are extremely conservative with regards to civil liberties. Democrats will probably criticize Trump for this while ignoring that their candidate was not all that much better. We are screwed either way when elections turn into a contest based upon lesser-evilism.