Analysis Law and Policy

Justice Kennedy and the Supreme Court’s Tilted Scale

Katherine Cross

In a recent ruling by the Supreme Court, which paved the way for similar state-level legislation, five justices voted in favor of weakening the separation of church and state; but the implications of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s libertarian jurisprudence are the most dangerous and far-reaching.

The text of Mississippi’s recently passed law, SB 2681 or the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, lavishes careful procedural and heraldic language on a proposed change to the state seal, adding “In God We Trust” to it. It does make for interesting reading, summoning the stilled bones of antiquated language into a peculiarly modern shape—for all the conservative chest-beating about a grand restoration of traditional “Christian America,” Mississippi’s bill had to note that it was changing a seal that had existed unchanged since 1818. So much for tradition.

But the symbolism matters. This legislative blazonry was, after all, appended to a successful anti-LGBT “religious freedom” bill, not dissimilar from the sort that has been making the rounds lately. SB 2681 provides that “government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion,” with broad enough language to suggest that this empowers private business owners to discriminate; it’s what I’ve called the “crowdsourcing of bigotry.”

This is primarily a state-level phenomenon, but a recent ruling by the Supreme Court in Town of Greece v. Galloway gives stark insight into the legal thinking that made SB 2681 what it is. That ruling allows government-sponsored religious invocations to be more explicitly sectarian, paving the way for mass, explicitly religious prayer in legislative sessions—and quite possibly other publicly sponsored events. The ruling is potentially far-reaching, dramatically eroding the power of courts to enforce the Establishment Clause.

One Roanoke, Virginia, supervisor—Al Bedrosian—already wants to ban all other faiths from any public invocations at legislative sessions in the city (he’s terribly concerned about Wiccans and Satanists, apparently).

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In light of that, it is instructive to consider Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion in Town of Greece, and how it is that his seemingly measured and unobtrusive vision of government power has actually empowered people like that hapless supervisor to use a particularly perverse reading of religious freedom to deny minorities full citizenship. Five justices voted in favor of weakening the separation of church and state, but the implications of Kennedy’s libertarian jurisprudence are the most dangerous and far-reaching, and his profoundly naive view of power is one that is creating one of the biggest juridical obstacles to women’s liberty in a generation, to say nothing of its deleterious impact on LGBTQ people and communities of color.

He is holding up the federal judicial end of what has chiefly been a state and legislature-based battle, to the detriment of us all.


“It is presumed that the reasonable observer is acquainted with this tradition [of legislative prayer] and understands that its purposes are to lend gravity to public proceedings and to acknowledge the place religion holds in the lives of many private citizens,” wrote Kennedy in his majority opinion, “not to afford government an opportunity to proselytize or force truant constituents into the pews.” He added that those who feel “excluded or disrespected” by such public prayer should ignore it because “offense … does not equate to coercion. Adults,” he chides, “often encounter speech they find disagreeable.”

Much of the majority opinion turns on this question of “coercion,” which for Justice Kennedy must be conscious, and explicitly named. Arguing that the Town of Greece’s legislative prayers “neither chastised dissenters nor attempted lengthy disquisition on religious dogma,” Kennedy avers that legislative bodies are not in any sense applying pressure to those of non-Christian faiths by requiring such prayer sessions because they are putatively optional and no one is holding a gun to the heads of legislators or petitioners. As Justice Thomas put it, “peer pressure, unpleasant as it may be, is not coercion.”

This faulty understanding of power is, indeed, what is disarming the sentinels of constitutional authority and licensing a perilously narrow reading of one religion to become the sine qua non of “religious freedom” in our society. This mentality is what is at work behind every “conscience clause,” behind every anti-LGBTQ “religious freedom restoration” law, and behind attempts to limit the availability of contraception.

Visible in Justice Kennedy’s other rulings is an equal disdain for the positive assertion of public rights—and it is important to focus on him because his occasional dissents from the four hardline conservatives on the Court are just as important as his concurrences with them; he is the keystone that makes many 5-4 splits happen, after all.


Justice Kennedy’s reasoning has always borne a libertarian streak with consistency and pride.

He was feted by many liberals for helping to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)—a surprise to some who had come to group him with the Court’s more deeply conservative members. But he voted to strike down DOMA because of the way in which the law was constructed, as a government intrusion that deliberately segregated marriages. That same summer he also voted to gut the Voting Rights Act (VRA) by striking down its fourth article, which provided for federal review of all changes to voting laws in certain jurisdictions that had a long history of legally expressed racial prejudice.

The difference? The VRA is legislation that is designed to level the playing field by using the power of the federal government to empower people of color. It is this species of legislation, born of a radically democratic philosophy, that is anathema to Kennedy. DOMA, by contrast, was about a negative right—the right to have a marriage unmolested by government interference. Marriage is a pre-existing right, not a new one created by any legislation. Thus DOMA was an intrusion that the libertarian Anthony Kennedy understood to be one compelling him to rule in favor of LGBTQ people—although he signed onto the most narrow version of the ruling, to be quite sure, which did not overturn same-sex marriage bans at a stroke but rather just disapprovingly punted the matter back to the states.

For Kennedy, it is the vision of a government meddling in the affairs of non-governmental actors that fills him with such dread, and constitutes the only exercise of power that he considers to be truly coercive. All other forms of prejudice, he seems to suggest, are best dispensed with privately through the thickness of one’s hide and little else.

Yet these informal swarms of prejudice are very real and profoundly coercive.

Kennedy makes an all too common mistake when he suggests that cases like Town of Greece, which orbit questions of “exclusion,” are really just about hurt feelings. In an op-ed to the Washington Post about the case, conservative columnist George F. Will expressed that sentiment perfectly when he groused that “[t]aking offense has become America’s national pastime; being theatrically offended [signifies] the delicacy of people who feel entitled to pass through life without encountering ideas or practices that annoy them.”

The echoes of Kennedy’s one-liner about “adults” are quite clearly discernible.

This bloviating about offendedness is the refusal to see material harm in certain social formations that may well manifest as speech but also constitute acts unto themselves, which then materially reshape the world around them. Words, after all, do something; it is that fundamental truth which underscores the civil libertarian’s enthusiasm for speech.

Indeed, at least one supervisor in Virginia is taking this ruling as his cue to materially exclude non-Christians from being represented in his city’s invocations. These are not just words; something is being done.


Yet, informal domination is a ghost story to Justice Kennedy. Thus it is that he lends majesty and grandeur to far grubbier efforts to erode the freedoms of women and minorities, in no small measure by licensing policies that constitute such groups as de facto others merely because there is no de jure text calling for their subjugation. A business can deny trade to an LGBT person as an expression of their religious beliefs, and this is not discrimination because no government law is actually the origin-point of the intrusion—a pharmacist can deny a woman Plan B, and a town or city may hold legislative prayers for the Christian faith but no other, for the same reason.

Justice Kennedy seems to say that as long as they’re nice about it, such behavior is tolerable, and can be “ignored” by “adults” of good will. But this is not citizenship. We do not have a democracy if collectives of some citizens are allowed to practice discrimination against others in ways that are completely unchecked. Liberty is not about survival of the fittest.

It is worth noting that a major trend at both the Supreme Court level and the state legislative level has been to compel victims of discrimination to stand alone, and without government assistance. Whether it was Lilly Ledbetter, political actors without access to great wealth, people of color in Southern states, or women working at Walmart, the Court has suggested that there were either severely truncated federal remedies for them or simply none at all.

In other words, women and minorities are increasingly unable to repair to the standard of our shared nationhood, which the federal government (often referred to as “public” for good reason) is meant to represent. In denying the women of Walmart the ability to sue as a class, for instance, the Supreme Court shattered the kind of collective power needed for people of minimal means—in other words, the ordinary citizen—to challenge large institutional collectives like corporations. Each woman, then, was made to sue for sex discrimination as an individual, not as a group, in spite of the clear pattern of sexism at many stores.

You can guess which side Justice Kennedy was on in that case, of course.

This erosion of the collective power of minorities has been a hallmark of the Roberts Court’s jurisprudence, and it is mirrored by far-right state legislatures that are determined to dynamite the pillars of collective redress. Such cases and laws compel the government to stand idly by as private citizens do violence to one another, in other words.


If, as many fear, the Supreme Court rules in favor of stores like Hobby Lobby in that pivotal case on contraception, it will be yet another blow to the power of citizens to appeal to the government to defend the rights we all supposedly have. The “religious freedom” of a powerful institution—in this case, a corporation—trumps the rights of women to bodily autonomy and the health care they earn through their labors. (We ought to have a full-on right to health care, but that’s another polemic entirely.)

Justice Kennedy is, doubtless, expressing his sincere fealty to his libertarian ideals, but the naiveté of his conception of power is profoundly magnified by the prodigiously convex lens of the Roberts Court’s conservatism. It constructs citizenship as a state-of-nature wilderness wherein all must take up arms against all to ensure some happy equilibrium of rights and duties, where no embattled minority or less-privileged group can appeal to a collective entity like government to level their playing field.

Thick skin and battle armor are all that this particularly debauched form of citizenship requires.

The crowdsourcing of bigotry requires government to step aside and deny the tools of redress to the powerless. Because Justice Kennedy and those like him believe that coercion can only come from a law that explicitly says it is discriminating, and that anything else is an ignorable “offense” that does little more than wound “feelings,” they allow the government to step back from its vital role in providing women and minorities with the collective power they need to stand on an even footing with established, privileged, or powerful collectives. This can be the institution of Christian religion or the Catholic Church, a corporation, or the traditionalism of anti-LGBT prejudice that makes itself manifest in thousands of microaggressions that police space and behavior.

Justice Kennedy has helped create the space for those like the Mississippi state legislature to make it harder for its own citizens to guarantee their rights when it comes to such actors. We are all the poorer for it.

Analysis Law and Policy

Federal Court Says Trans Worker Can Be Fired Based on Owner’s Religious Beliefs

Jessica Mason Pieklo

“Plain and simple, this is just discrimination against a person because of who she is,” said John Knight, the director of the LGBT and HIV Project of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, in an interview with Rewire.

When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2014 in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that the owners of secular for-profit businesses could challenge laws they believed infringed on their religious liberties, civil rights advocates warned that the decision was just the start of a new wave of litigation. On Thursday, those predictions came true: A federal district judge in Michigan ruled that a funeral home owner could fire a transgender worker simply for being transgender.

The language of the opinion is sweeping, even if the immediate effect of the decision is limited to the worker, Aimee Stephens, and her boss. And that has some court-watchers concerned.

“Plain and simple, this is just discrimination against a person because of who she is,” said John Knight, the director of the LGBT and HIV Project of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, in an interview with Rewire.

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According to court documents, Stephens, an employee at Detroit’s R.G. & G.R. Funeral Homes, gave her boss—the business’ owner—a letter in 2013 explaining she was undergoing a gender transition. As part of her transition, she told her employer that she would soon start to present as a woman, including dressing in appropriate business attire at work that was consistent both with her identity and the company’s sex-segregated dress code policy.

Two weeks later, Stephens was fired after being told by her boss that what she was “proposing to do” was unacceptable and offensive to his religious beliefs.

In September 2014, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit on behalf of Stephens, arguing the funeral home had violated Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employment discrimination. According to the EEOC, Stephens was unlawfully fired in violation of Title VII “because she is transgender, because she was transitioning from male to female, and/or because she did not conform to the employer’s gender-based expectations, preferences, or stereotypes.”

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act allows those employees who have been discriminated against in the workplace to collect money, known as civil damages. Those damages usually come in the form of lost wages, back pay, and funds to make up for—to some degree—the abuse the employee faced on the job. They are also designed to make employers more vigilant about their workplace culture. Losing an employment discrimination case for an employer can be expensive.

But attorneys representing Stephens’ employer argued that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) protected their client from legal liability for firing Stephens. On Thursday, a federal court agreed. It said that paying such damages for unlawfully discriminating against an employee could amount to a substantial burden on an employer’s religious beliefs. 

According to the court, despite the fact that Stephens’ boss admitted he fired her for transitioning, and despite the fact that the court found this admission to be direct evidence of employment discrimination, RFRA can be a defense against that direct discrimination. To use that defense, the court concluded, all the funeral home owner had to do was assert that his religious beliefs embraced LGBTQ discrimination. The funeral home had “met its initial burden of showing that enforcement of Title VII, and the body of sex-stereotyping case law that has developed under it, would impose a substantial burden on its ability to conduct business in accordance with its sincerely-held religious beliefs,” the court wrote.

In other words, Hobby Lobby provides employers a defense to discriminating against LGBTQ people on the basis of religious beliefs.

“The RFRA analysis is extremely troubling, and the implications of it [are] as well,” said Knight. “I believe this is the first case applying RFRA to a Title VII claim with respect to nonministerial employees.”

If the scope of the opinion were broader, Knight continued, “this would allow [employers in general] to evade and refuse to comply with uniform nondiscrimination law because of their religious views.”

This, Knight said, is what advocates were afraid of in the wake of Hobby Lobby: “It is the concern raised by all of the liberal justices in the dissent in Hobby Lobby, and it is what the majority in Hobby Lobby said the decision did not mean. [That majority] said it did not mean the end of enforcement of nondiscrimination laws.”

And yet that is exactly what we are seeing in this decision, Knight said.

According to court documents, Stephens’ boss has been a Christian for more than 65 years and testified that he believes “the Bible teaches that God creates people male or female,” that “the Bible teaches that a person’s sex is an immutable God-given gift, and that people should not deny or attempt to change their sex.” For Stephens’ former boss, Stephens’ transition to a woman was “denying” her sex. Stephens had to be fired, her boss testified, so that he would not be directly complicit in supporting the idea that “sex is a changeable social construct rather than an immutable God-given gift.”

If the “complicit in denying God’s will” sounds familiar, it should. It has been the exact argument used by businesses challenging the birth control benefit of the Affordable Care Act. Those business owners believe contraception is contrary to God’s will and that complying with federal law, which says birth control should be treated in insurance policies as any other preventive service, makes them complicit in sin. Thursday’s decision cites Hobby Lobby directly to support the court’s conclusion that complying with federal nondiscrimination law can be avoided by asserting a religious objection.

Think of the implications, should other courts follow this lead. Conservatives have, in the past, launched religious objections to child labor laws, the minimum wage, interracial marriage, and renting housing to single parents—to name a few. Those early legal challenges were unsuccessful, in part because they were based on constitutional claims. Hobby Lobby changed all that, opening the door for religious conservatives to launch all kinds of protests against laws they disagree with.

And though the complaint may be framed as religious objections to birth control, to LGBTQ people generally, and whatever other social issue that rankles conservatives, these cases are so much more than that. They are about corporate interests trying to evade regulations that both advance social equity and punish financially those businesses that refuse to follow the law. Thursday’s opinion represents the next, troubling evolution of that litigation.

CORRECTION: This article has been updated to clarify John Knight’s position with the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.

Commentary Politics

It’s Not Just Trump: The Right Wing’s Increasing Reliance on Violence and Intimidation as a Path to Power

Jodi Jacobson

Republicans have tried to pass Trump's most recent comments off as a joke because to accept the reality of that rhetoric would mean going to the core of their entire party platform and their strategies. The GOP would have to come to terms with the toll its power plays are taking on the country writ large.

This week, GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump stated that, if Hillary Clinton were elected and able to nominate justices to the Supreme Court, “Second Amendment people” might be able to do something about it. After blaming the media for “being dishonest” in reporting his statement, the Trump campaign has since tried to pass the comment off as a joke. However characterized, Trump’s statement is not only part of his own election strategy, but also a strategy that has become synonymous with those of candidates, legislators, and groups affiliated with the positions of the GOP.

To me, the phrase “Second Amendment people” translates to those reflexively opposed to any regulation of gun sales and ownership and who feel they need guns to arm themselves against the government. I’m not alone: The comment was widely perceived as an implicit threat of violence against the Democratic presidential nominee. Yet, GOP party leaders have failed to condemn his comment, with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) agreeing with the Trump campaign that it was “a joke gone bad.”

Republicans have tried to pass it off as a joke because to accept the reality of their rhetoric would mean going to the core of their entire party platform and their strategies. The GOP would have to come to terms with the toll its power plays are taking on the country writ large. The rhetoric is part of a longer and increasingly dangerous effort by the GOP, aided by corporate-funded right-wing organizations and talk show hosts, to de-legitimize the federal government, undermine confidence in our voting system, play on the fears held by a segment of the population about tyranny and the loss of liberty, and intimidate people Republican leaders see as political enemies.

Ironically, while GOP candidates and leaders decry the random violence of terrorist groups like Daeshitself an outgrowth of desperate circumstances, failed states, and a perceived or real loss of powerthey are perpetuating the idea of loss and desperation in the United States and inciting others to random violence against political opponents.

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Trump’s “Second Amendment” comment came after a week of efforts by the Trump campaign to de-legitimize the 2016 presidential election well before a single vote has been cast. On Monday, August 1, after polls showed Trump losing ground, he asserted in an Ohio campaign speech that “I’m afraid the election’s gonna be rigged, I have to be honest.”

Manufactured claims of widespread voter fraud—a problem that does not exist, as several analyses have shown—have nonetheless been repeatedly pushed by the GOP since the 2008 election. Using these disproven claims as support, GOP legislatures in 20 states have passed new voter restrictions since 2010, and still the GOP claims elections are suspect, stoking the fears of average voters seeking easy answers to complex problems and feeding the paranoia of separatist and white nationalist groups. Taking up arms against an illegitimate government is, after all, exactly what “Second Amendment remedies” are for.

Several days before Trump’s Ohio speech, Trump adviser Roger Stone suggested that the result of the election might be “illegitimate,” leading to “widespread civil disobedience” and a “bloodbath,” a term I personally find chilling.

Well before these comments were made, there was the hate-fest otherwise known as the Republican National Convention (RNC), during which both speakers and supporters variously called for Clinton to be imprisoned or shot, and during which New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a man not widely known for his high ethical standards or sense of accountability, led a mock trial of Hillary Clinton to chants from the crowd of “lock her up.” And that was the tame part.

The number of times Trump has called for or supported violence at his rallies is too long to catalogue here. His speeches are rife with threats to punch opponents; after the Democratic National Convention, he threatened to hit speakers who critiqued his policies “so hard their heads would spin.” He also famously promised to pay the legal fees of anyone who hurt protesters at his rallies and defended former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski after allegations surfaced that Lewandowski had assaulted a female Breitbart reporter.

A recent New York Times video compiled over a year of reporting at Trump rallies revealed the degree to which many of Trump’s supporters unapologetically express violence and hatred—for women, immigrants, and people of color. And Trump eschews any responsibility for what has transpired, repeatedly claiming he does not condone violence—his own rhetoric, that of his associates, and other evidence notwithstanding.

Still, to focus only on Trump is to ignore a broader and deeper acceptance, even encouragement of, incitement to violence by the GOP that began long before the 2016 campaign.

In 2008, in what may appear to be a now forgotten but eerily prescient peek at the 2016 RNC, then-GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), and his running mate, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, used race-baiting and hints at violence to gin up their crowds. First, Palin accused Obama of “palling around with terrorists,” a claim that became part of her stump speech. As a result, Frank Rich then wrote in the New York Times:

At McCain-Palin rallies, the raucous and insistent cries of “Treason!” and “Terrorist!” and “Kill him!” and “Off with his head!” as well as the uninhibited slinging of racial epithets, are actually something new in a campaign that has seen almost every conceivable twist. They are alarms. Doing nothing is not an option.

Nothing was in fact done. No price was paid by GOP candidates encouraging this kind of behavior.

In 2009, during congressional debates on the Affordable Care Act, opponents of the health-care law, who’d been fed a steady diet of misleading and sensationalist information, were encouraged by conservative groups like FreedomWorks and Right Principles, as well as talk show hosts such as Sean Hannity, to disrupt town hall meetings on the legislation held throughout the country. Protesters turned up at some town hall meetings armed with rifles with the apparent intention of intimidating those who, in supporting health reform, disagreed with them. In some cases, what began as nasty verbal attacks turned violent. As the New York Times then reported: “[M]embers of Congress have been shouted down, hanged in effigy and taunted by crowds. In several cities, noisy demonstrations have led to fistfights, arrests and hospitalizations.”

In 2010, as first reported by the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent, Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle, in an unsuccessful bid to unseat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), suggested that armed insurrection would be the answer if “this Congress keeps going the way it is.” In response to a request for clarification by the host of the radio show on which she made her comments, Angle said:

You know, our Founding Fathers, they put that Second Amendment in there for a good reason and that was for the people to protect themselves against a tyrannical government. And in fact Thomas Jefferson said it’s good for a country to have a revolution every 20 years.

I hope that’s not where we’re going, but, you know, if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying my goodness what can we do to turn this country around? I’ll tell you the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out.

Also in 2010, Palin, by then a failed vice-presidential candidate, created a map “targeting” congressional Democrats up for re-election, complete with crosshairs. Palin announced the map to her supporters with this exhortation: “Don’t retreat. Instead, reload!”

One of the congresspeople on that map was Arizona Democrat Gabby Giffords, who in the 2010 Congressional race was challenged by Jesse Kelly, a Palin-backed Tea Party candidate. Kelly’s campaign described an event this way:

Get on Target for Victory in November. Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office. Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly.

Someone took this literally. In January 2011, Jared Lee Loughner went on a shooting rampage in a Tuscon grocery store at which Giffords was meeting with constituents. Loughner killed six people and injured 13 others, including Giffords who, as a result of permanent disability resulting from the shooting, resigned from Congress. Investigators later found that Loughner had for months become obsessed with government conspiracy theories such as those spread by GOP and Tea Party candidates.

These events didn’t stop GOP candidates from fear-mongering and suggesting “remedies.”  To the contrary, the goading continued. As the Huffington Post‘s Sam Stein wrote in 2011:

Florida Senate candidate Mike McCalister, who is running against incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), offered a variation of the much-lampooned line during a speech before the Palms West Republican Club earlier this week.

“I get asked sometimes where do I stand on the Second and 10th Amendment, and I have a little saying,” he declared. “We need a sign at every harbor, every airport and every road entering our state: ‘You’re entering a 10th Amendment-owned and -operated state, and justice will be served with the Second Amendment.’” [Emphasis added.]

These kinds of threats by the GOP against other legislators and even the president have gone unpunished by the leadership of the party. Not a word has come from either House Speaker Paul Ryan or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell decrying these statements, and the hyperbole and threats have only continued. Recently, for example, former Illinois GOP Congressman Joe Walsh tweeted and then deleted this threat to the president after the killing of five police officers in Dallas, Texas:

“3 Dallas cops killed, 7 wounded,” former congressman Joe Walsh, an Illinois Republican, wrote just before midnight in a tweet that is no longer on his profile. “This is now war. Watch out Obama. Watch out black lives matter punks. Real America is coming after you.”
Even after the outcry over his recent remarks, Trump has escalated the rhetoric against both President Obama and against Clinton, calling them the “founders of ISIS.” And again no word from the GOP leadership.
This rhetoric is part of a pattern used by the right wing within and outside elections. Anti-choice groups, for example, consistently misrepresent reproductive health care writ large, and abortion specifically. They “target” providers with public lists of names, addresses, and other personal information. They lie, intimidate, and make efforts to both vilify and stigmatize doctors. When this leads to violence, as David Cohen wrote in Rolling Stone this week, the anti-choice groups—and their GOP supporters—shrug off any responsibility.
Some gun rights groups also use this tactic of intimidation and targeting to silence critique. In 2011, for example, 40 men armed with semi-automatic weapons and other guns surrounded a restaurant in Arlington, Texas, in which a mothers’ group had gathered to discuss gun regulations. “Second Amendment people” have spit upon women arguing for gun regulation and threatened them with rape. In one case, a member of these groups waited in the dark at the home of an advocate and then sought to intimidate her as she approached in her wheelchair.
The growing resort to violence and intimidation in our country is a product of an environment in which leading politicians not only look the other way as their constituents and affiliated groups use such tactics to press a political point, but in which the leaders themselves are complicit.
These are dangerous games being played by a major political party in its own quest for power. Whether or not Donald Trump is the most recent and most bombastic evidence of what has become of the GOP, it is the leadership and the elected officials of the party who are condoning and perpetuating an environment in which insinuations of violence will increasingly lead to acts of violence. The more that the right uses and suggests violence as a method of capturing, consolidating, and holding power, the more they become like the very terrorists they claim to be against.


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