THE BLOG
05/31/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Why Do Tea Party Protesters Believe Only They Have a Right to Robust and Raucus Speech?

2010-03-30-teaparty.jpg Why is it that when the Tea Baggers violently interrupt a Democratic senator or congressperson that is a robust and raucous exercise of freedom of speech, but when a heckler or two interrupt a Sarah Palin speech at a John McCain rally, that is "violence" and the person is subjected to forceful eviction and even more violent treatment? Contrast the treatment of the heckler at the Palin rally with the treatment of right-wing protesters during a Lawrence Summers's talk.

Is there a double standard going on here? Surely there is. But what is worse is that the way that Tea Baggers and the Republican leaders frame the issue is that anyone who "stands up" and "protests" the Obama administration is a patriot, but anyone who does the same to a Republican is a spoiler, a low life, and a possible traitor.

When Republicans in Congress heckle the president or other legislators, they model the kind of behavior that degenerates further into the kind of violence the young heckler at the McCain rally experienced. When Republicans do not stand up for the right to express one's opinion regardless of party, they enforce a kind of group-think that can only harm freedom of speech. The Supreme Court has defended the right of citizens to engage in robust and raucous colloquy. That ruling applies not only to Tea Party protesters but to all Americans as well.