Let’s imagine that members of the Tea Party went to a Bernie Sanders rally to do just one thing: disrupt it.
Let’s imagine they shouted during Sanders speeches and tore up Sanders campaign posters. Let’s say they had no intention of letting Bernie speak because they didn’t like what Bernie had to say.
Like all true believers, they were convinced they were right, so whatever they did, they reasoned, was fair game.
Who would get the blame? Bernie Sanders for “provoking” the Tea Party with his radical views … or the Tea Party?
We know the answer.
Yet, even though left-wing demonstrators went to that Trump rally in Chicago with plans to disrupt it, the question I heard a hundred times from journalists on TV is whether Donald Trump’s provocative rhetoric at his rallies was responsible for the mayhem in Chicago.
Donald Trump says no. He takes no responsibility for the trouble in Chicago. But he has said things that stoke tensions, even if he denies it.
When a protestor at a rally in Las Vegas was ejected, Trump told the crowd, "I’d like to punch him in the face." That kind of talk is not presidential. It doesn’t cool things down. It heats them up.
But the demonstrators – Trump calls them “disruptors” – who went to his rally in Chicago to cause trouble were not Republicans. If they vote at all, they vote Democratic. More than a few of the troublemakers were holding Bernie Sanders campaign signs.
I take Sanders at his word that his campaign wasn’t behind the disruption in Chicago. But they were his supporters. If Trump supporters disrupted a Sanders rally – even if Trump had no direct hand in the matter -- Trump would be held accountable. Why isn’t Bernie Sanders treated the same way?
Let’s not give Donald Trump a free pass, but the people who want to shut down speech they don’t like – whether they’re Sanders supporters or activists from Moveon.org or Black Lives Matters -- are the bigger menace. And they deserve more of the blame for what happened than they're getting.
They’re the authoritarians, the ones who don’t believe in free speech. They’re the ones who think that disrupting an opponent’s political rally is a legitimate tactic.
But they’re not who Hillary Clinton had in mind when she said, “If you play with matches, you’re going to start a fire you can’t control.” No, she was talking about Donald Trump. “The ugly, divisive rhetoric we are hearing from Donald Trump and the encouragement of violence and aggression is wrong, and it’s dangerous,” she said.
It's much easier to take on Donald Trump than the crazy wing of her own progressive base.
But as disturbing as the video was from Chicago, we shouldn’t be shocked – and not just because sooner or later it was bound to happen. Donald Trump, after all, is a polarizing figure. Another reason we should have seen it coming is because the same thing has become commonplace on too many college campuses, where liberal students shut down speech they don’t like.
That is the historical background to what we’re seeing today. If you don’t like what the other side is saying, shut it down. There are no consequences. No one gets kicked out of school for shouting down a conservative on campus.
Just a few weeks ago, left wing demonstrators at California State University Los Angeles barricaded the entrances of a theater where conservative commentator Ben Shapiro was set to deliver a speech on censorship and diversity on college campuses.
According to one news account, “ Led primarily by the school’s Black Student Union and Black Lives Matter chapter, the hundreds of demonstrators, including some professors, poured into the Student Union building Thursday afternoon to block other students from attending the event.” At one point according to the story, “A demonstrator pulled the fire alarm midway through the lecture, but Shapiro carried on with his remarks despite the shrill noise and pounding at the doors.”
This kind of thing has become depressingly routine on too many college campuses. But I don’t recall Bernie condemning any of that. And I don’t recall Hillary warning us that, “If you play with matches, you’re going to start a fire you can’t control.”
The sensitive liberal snowflakes on college campuses who might faint if they were exposed to views that don’t comport with their own have been playing with matches for quite some time now. The grownups should have taken the matches away a long time ago. They didn’t. And that helps explain what happened in Chicago.