Are Kavanaugh opponents exercising free speech or just making noise?

Are Kavanaugh opponents exercising free speech or just making noise?
© Greg Nash

Before President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump threatens ex-intel official's clearance, citing comments on CNN Protesters topple Confederate monument on UNC campus Man wanted for threatening to shoot Trump spotted in Maryland MORE announced the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court on July 9, activists from across the political spectrum were ready to voice varying opinions on the decision. In the race to define the narrative around the nominee, some organizations even failed to change the gender pronouns or remove the space holders for the nominee's name before issuing canned press releases based only on political opinion.

The rush to judgment and borderline violent demonstrations were sloppy, uninformed, and should be embarrassing to all that participated. At least one news correspondent felt so unsafe that she had to return to the safety of a studio to broadcast the news of Kavanaugh's nomination.

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The scenes of protestors outside the Supreme Court following the announcement reminded me of so many other protests where crowds gather but have no unity of purpose and end up losing control. Free speech is a beautiful thing however the hatred, threats, and violence have no place in a civil debate. Those who engage in such activity show the risks in exercising freedoms — there is no guarantee it will be exercised responsibly.

 

While much of the protest and outrage on July 9th lacked substance, those in "the resistance" have every right to express opinions, even outrage — but they need to know why they are fighting. At the same time, those who support President Trump and the Constitution have a right to advocate for Kavanaugh's confirmation by using facts and sound arguments.

The protestors outside the Supreme Court reminded me of the day my own First Amendment case, McCutcheon v. FEC, was argued there in 2013. On that day, activists behind bullhorns falsely called me a heartless billionaire coal baron and even accused me of trying to buy elections. (I do wish the billionaire part were true.)

As a proponent of political speech, and advocate for more of it, some of the clamor of activity prior to and immediately following the Kavanaugh announcement was a welcomed development - and some of it was just nonsensical blather. 

Journalists, pundits, protestors, and advocates should be offering substance and evidence to back up their claims, especially when they argue against common sense without any explanation. The speech exercised is much more valuable when it can be taken seriously by an objective observer.

Political speech is valuable. Noise and name calling is worthless. 

The marketplace of ideas was flooded in the rush to express outrage and disappointment immediately after Kavanaugh's announcement. Fortunately, it was not sustained and the opportunity to change the course of the debate is open. With the competing news from the Mueller investigation — apart from the price of Washington Nationals tickets - very little (if any) negative information about Judge Kavanaugh has been revealed thus far.

Though Kavanaugh rose in prominence during the Bush years — a president whose leadership was hard to discern from that of the Democrats — Kavanaugh seems to have the support of both the conservatives and moderates. The lack of noise from both camps proves that they are united on this pick.

The nomination process, hearings, and vote will be as Leadership Institute founder Morton Blackwell describes as "a long ball game." The next few weeks will present an opportunity for a cooling off period so that support or objections may be presented, considered, and debated. While the rhetoric may heat up, ideally it will be based on specifics of the nominee's record, statements, and previous rulings — and not just unfounded outrage.

Despite the rush to react to Kavanaugh's nomination, there will be several more weeks of research, rumors, attacks, and rebuttals designed to apply political pressure on lawmakers to make an informed decision.

Millions are being spent to influence those on Capitol Hill and shape public opinion. This is exactly the kind of free speech I love. Bring it on, but just leave the uninformed noise at home.

Shaun McCutcheon is an Alabama based electrical engineer and successful plaintiff in the 2014 Supreme Court case McCutcheon v. FEC