Wednesday 12 October 2016

SumTips: How Donald Trump Proves That Freedom of Speech Works

Donald Trump
[Source: Gage Skidmore]
We said it in May and we’ll say it again: Freedom of speech—especially following years of silence—can be messy, ugly and uncomfortable for all, but it is the dialogue that it brings that is absolutely necessary to achieve a lasting peace.

The weeks leading up to the American presidential election have become quite the free speech-fest, with a slew of colorful comments from Republican nominee Donald Trump sparking ongoing debate from politicians and Facebook friends alike.

On Friday, a recorded conversation from 2005 of Donald Trump and television personality Billy Bush was released. In it, Trump bragged about how his celebrity status enabled him to grope, kiss and have sex with women as he saw fit: “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”

The ensuing response, however, has overwhelmingly suggested that the Donald’s days of omnipotence are coming to an end:

By Saturday, 2008 Republican presidential hopeful Senator John McCain had withdrawn his support for Trump.

On Sunday, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Trump broke precedent and did not shake hands at the start of their town hall debate.

During the debate, Trump diminished his 2005 commentary as mere “locker room talk,” in essence providing a more definitive answer to the debate’s opening question (“Do you feel you are modeling appropriate and positive behavior for today’s youth?”) than he was willing to give when the question was asked.

Clinton, in turn, used Trump’s “locker room talk” as an opportunity to remind voters that this was in no way an isolated incident: “So, yes, this is who Donald Trump is. But it’s not only women, and it’s not only this video that raises questions about his fitness to be our president, because he has also targeted immigrants, African-Americans, Latinos, people with disabilities, POWs, Muslims, and so many others.”

On Monday, Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan announced that he would neither defend nor campaign for Trump, and encouraged fellow Republicans to proceed as they saw fit. To date, the total number of Republican leaders not supporting Trump has reached 160.

On Tuesday, Donald Trump let us know what he really thinks about his dwindling Republican support: “It is so nice that the shackles have been taken off me and I can now fight for America the way I want to.”

In short, Donald Trump’s commentary has made us all a little uncomfortable, but now that it is out in the open, we can see him and America a little more clearly. Will the United States prove to be a country that prefers a woman or a misogynist as its commander-in-chief – and, accordingly, to what extent should the rest of the world follow its lead or walk away?

Know of other ways Trump’s freedom of expression has deepened our understanding of American politics? Let us know in the comments below.

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