Political folks always run the risk of losing integrity by descending into the thoughtless conformity Peggy Noonan once called “teamism.” So it’s important that we notice when people resist the gravitational pull of thuggishness, and stand up to their own side on a heated issue. It’s clear to me that the bullying tactics being threatened against the Chick-fil-A restaurants are wrong and illiberal, and I want to praise some liberals who are being vocal in agreement on this point. Here is Adam Serwer in Mother Jones:
Menino and Moreno have it wrong. Blocking construction of Chick-fil-a restaurants over Cathy’s views is a violation of Cathy’s First Amendment rights. Boston and Chicago have no more right to stop construction of Chick-fil-As based on an executive’s anti-gay views than New York City would have had the right to block construction of an Islamic community center blocks away from Ground Zero. The government blocking a business from opening based on the owner’s political views is a clear threat to everyone’s freedom of speech—being unpopular doesn’t mean you don’t have rights. It’s only by protecting the rights of those whose views we find odious that we can hope to secure them for ourselves.
And here, from Twitter, is Amanda Marcotte. If you go to the link you will discover that Twitter, at least as Amanda Marcotte practices it, is the equivalent of close-quarters knife fighting, only without that activity’s high level of politeness; I disagree with her profoundly on a number of issues and am glad that her ferocity, in this case, is directed at what I, too, consider a deserving target. She is confronting there, mano a mano, folks who just don’t get it. A few of her tweets:
Blocking Chick-fil-A permits on speech issues is wrong and unconstitutional. Don’t go there, folks.
. . .
Fight bad speech with more speech. It’s weak to think our arguments have no power.
. . .
Plus, making martyrs out of them by denying them their fundamental right of free speech is counter-productive.
. . .
I basically refuse to give the government power to ban me from making money to punish me for my political opinions. Full stop.
That last one makes a really fundamental point. Notice that she says “give the government power to ban me from making money”; she realizes the fundamental truth of a liberal constitutional order, which is that the rights of all are threatened when the rights even of a very small minority are taken away. Rights do not depend on a referendum on the popularity of the one whose rights are at stake, which is also why Serwer’s analogy of the mosque in lower Manhattan is so appropriate. If some people can have their rights taken away because there is an angry mob in the streets (in the case of the mosque) or because there is an angry mob of cynical Democratic politicians at city hall (in the case of Chick-fil-A), the rights of the rest of us will last only so long as we are lucky enough not to have an angry mob targeting us.
P.S. At the risk of alienating the good feelings of the two liberals I have just praised (and of others as well), let me point out that I consider the right of Catholics and other religious objectors not to pay for contraception another, similar right that deserves protection against an overweening government. But sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof; I thank everybody who has had the courage to stand up for Chick-fil-A in the face of harsh opposition.