For as much as the GOP claims to love the Constitution, their recent actions suggest otherwise. Or rather, it suggests that they really only love parts of the constitution. The Second Amendment is pretty great, but that pesky First Amendment? Not so much. At least, that is what recent actions by Paul Ryan and colleagues seem to suggest is the prevailing GOP attitude.
Paul Ryan and his fellow gun-loving Republicans have refused to give an inch when it comes to gun-rights, even on issues the majority of Americans agree about like the so-called common sense gun laws that have been proposed. In June of 2016, Ryan and colleagues refused to even allow a vote on a law that would expand background checks and prevent people who are on the no-fly list from buying guns.
Democrats responded by staging an epic sit-in protest, camping out in the chamber for over 24 hours. When the official cameras were turned off, the protesters used social media apps like Periscope and Facebook Live to continue to broadcast their efforts. It got a lot of attention and it’s safe to say that the GOP was not pleased.
In fact, Ryan and other Republican leaders are now making efforts to fully shut down the First Amendment rights of their Democratic colleagues. If a similar situation were to arise again in the future, Ryan and crew don’t think the Democrats should be allowed to share with the country what is happening. Mr. Ryan talks a big game about loving the Constitution, but his current efforts are in clear violation of the beloved document’s First Amendment.
The proposed new rules would actually impose sanctions on those who violate them, namely large fines in the form of garnished wages. That elected representatives could actually be fined merely for sharing what is happening with their constituents is a new level of bizarre and terrifying. Offenders could even be referred to the Ethics Committee.
There is some irony here, as there is some precedent for the action of the Democrats, in the Republicans of the Reagan era. After the day’s business was over, Republicans attacked Democrats during a time known as “special orders.”
The role of technology and social media is really at the heart of this story. Before smartphones and sites like Facebook, it would have been much more difficult for the protesters to get the word out. To many Americans, these tools actually strengthen the idea of democracy. Since our elected officials are our representatives, it seems only right that we remain informed of how they are doing so.
Some worry that Ryan’s efforts signal the beginning of a lot of trouble to come during the Trump administration. Since millions of more votes went to Clinton and protests have already been rampant, it’s concerning there have already been efforts to quash the rights of protesters. The right to peaceful protest is an important part of the Constitution and many worry about what will happen to protesters during a Trump presidency.
For now, this troubling rules package is only a proposal. It will still need to be passed in order to take effect. The package will be debated and voted on after new members are sworn in and Congress returns to session in January. With a GOP-majority, it seems like the rules package will have at least a decent chance of passing.
Even if it does pass, though, some Democrats, like Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., have already spoken out about not letting the fines stop them. Nancy Pelosi has likewise assured Americans that Democrats will “never stop speaking out.”