“What First Amendment? Republicans cast themselves as champions of the First Amendment, but they’ve done nothing to stop Donald Trump’s war on free speech.”

I’ve been waiting for someone to write about this, and here’s Eliza Newlin Carney with a good one:

Indeed, Trump’s assault on free speech is far more direct, aggressive, and broadly destructive than anything yet seen in the United States. He’s threatened legal action to silence critics; called for news organizations to fire specific journalists; tweeted videos and images of himself inflicting bloody violence on figures bearing the logo of CNN, a favorite target; and has weaponized mainstream media outlets as “fake news.”…

None of this seems to worry supposed First Amendment champions on the right. With a few exceptions, such as Abrams, Flake, and McCain, conservatives take Trump’s assaults on free speech merrily in stride. As GOP election lawyer Jim Bopp recently assured the Center for Public Integrity:

Liberals refuse to understand with Trump that you can’t take what he says literally. What is important about Trump is what he’s doing and not what he’s saying, and in practice, everything he’s done is in step with maintaining a First Amendment-friendly approach to campaign finance.

Bopp’s comments shed light on the real reason Republicans don’t really care whether Trump trashes press freedoms. For many on the right, the First Amendment is less important as a tool to protect speech than to protect money, and those who spend it. As ethics attorney Kathleen Clark, who teaches law at Washington University in St. Louis, puts it: “Economic power, and the ability to exploit economic power, is at the center of their vision of the First Amendment.


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