Joe Miller’s Senate campaign received unwanted national attention after the Tea Party candidate’s security detail detained a journalist over the weekend. Miller’s actions, as well as fellow Republican Rand Paul’s exemplify the right wing’s contempt for the constitution, free press and democratic discourse.
Republicans have always had a serious problem with the press, which some, like Sarah Palin, deride as the “lamestream” media. And this year’s election cycle has seen a string of candidates, including Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell, avoiding the press for fear of bad coverage. Now Miller appears to be joining their ranks.
According to Miller’s campaign, the journalist, Tony Hopfinger, was unruly and violent while asking about past political reprimands, an issue Miller has made clear he doesn’t want to discuss. So, to protect Miller, security had to handcuff Hopfinger.
In Hopfinger’s telling, however, Miller was dodging the free press, and he was under fire: “[I was] surrounded by a bunch of security guard types and Miller supporters,” he said. “I figure I’m at a public school and they are telling me I’m trespassing… I’m challenging this trespass issue and the next thing you know they got me detained and I’m in handcuffs and they put me in another corridor of the building.”
Considering his political peers’ history with the press, I’m more inclined to believe Miller wanted to avoid an uncomfortable situation, rather than a potentially dangerous altercation. What he doesn’t realize, however, is that his actions neuter the entire right wing agenda.
Miller, Angle, Palin and the rest claim they’re out there defending the constitution. Rand Paul, another Tea Party darling, himself told me, “I’m a strict constructionist. I believe in a federal government that operates under the enumerated powers of the constitution.” Why, then, do these people continue to undermine the constitution?
As anyone can tell you our nation’s forefathers are quite clear in the first amendment, “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” Conservative attacks of or avoidance of the “media,” then, are actually attacks on free press, a constitutional ideal they claim they want to protect. Their refusal to deal with or derision of the press curtails not only our founding document, but any meaningful democratic discourse.
A true democracy cannot thrive without discourse. And to have discourse, we need the press. We also need debates, and, sadly, Rand Paul may not participate in the next one. Nor will Rob Wittman, the Congressman running for reelection in Virginia who refused to debate his opponent, Krystal Ball.
So how can these men, how can this party, claim to stand for American ideals? How, if they refuse to engage the press and the people, can they insist they have the nation’s best interest at heart?
The reality is, however, that such tactics don’t only hurt the constitution, they hurt these candidates. If you don’t speak with the press or the public, who will listen to what you have to say?