By John Pence
Pence is a senior adviser to the Trump 2020 campaign. He is a graduate of the College of William & Mary, holds a law degree from the Indiana University Maurer School of Law, and a business degree from New York University. His views and opinions are entirely his own.
As an alumnus of The College of William and Mary, I know that the history of America and the history of this Commonwealth are intertwined. From Mount Vernon to Monticello, from Colonial Williamsburg to Old Town Alexandria, from Arlington House to Arlington Cemetery, the history of America’s founding is scattered all across Virginia.
Last week, President Trump gave a powerful speech in Jamestown as both Republicans and Democrats gathered to commemorate the 400th anniversary of representative government in America. The speech was rich in American history, detailing the struggles and triumphs of our nation and the resilience for which Americans are known. It’s worth a listen.
President Trump remarked how those who settled the Commonwealth came for God and country in search of opportunity and fortune. He told of how their courage forged timeless traits of the American character, such as self-reliance and freedom for all. These characteristics would later help lay the foundation of our Nation.
Unfortunately, some simply couldn’t respect the significance of the occasion. During the speech, Virginia State Del. Ibrahim Samirah, D-Fairfax, tried to use the heckler’s veto to chill the president’s speech in the most undemocratic of ways — volume over substance. I respect Samirah’s right to freedom of expression, but this was not the appropriate forum. Del. Samirah embarrassed not only himself, but all Virginians. My critique here is content-neutral.
People have a right to criticize their leaders, but there is a time and a place. After then-Vice President-elect Mike Pence was criticized during a showing of Hamilton in New York City in 2016, he simply told my cousins, my sister, and me that “that’s what freedom sounds like.” Our Constitution provides us with a right to speak our conscience, and all Americans should be proud of our First Amendment rights and freedoms.
But the elected official who heckled our president this week was not exercising his own freedom — he was trying to prevent the president from exercising his. The heckler was not arguing for his right to be heard — he was trying to stop the President from being heard. It was, in truth, a chilling attempt to silence free speech, not a celebration thereof. Let’s call it what it was — inappropriate, undemocratic, and an embarrassment to the Commonwealth.
Imagine if a student stood up and started yelling during a classroom lecture because he disagreed with the speaker. No reasonable person would say that student is exercising his free speech rights, let alone try to defend such behavior. Yet liberal media outlets like MSNBC gushed over Samirah’s interruption and even invited him to be interviewed.
Americans hold the freedom of speech in highest regard, and I don’t need to remind Virginians that those freedoms are a core part of our founding principles. Freedom of speech and its marketplace of ideas fosters an open society of free debate — but using one’s “freedom of speech” to silence another’s voice subverts the very sort of free society that it’s meant to protect in the first place!
This is why the left doesn’t have the confidence of the American people. They’re not running on ideas — they’re running on resistance and obstruction. They heckle and shout down their opponents and claim it’s free speech. All the while, the hard working people of this country simply sigh and shake their heads.
Spoiler alert — this is another reason why the left will continue to lose at the ballot box in 2020 and beyond.