Whether one is speaking of First Amendment-protected speech on university and college campuses or efforts of elected congressional representatives to conduct dialogues with their constituents, America has become messy indeed.
While we weren’t looking, groups were organizing to take away our most fundamental civil liberties.
Organized and paid political activists mingle among honest citizens seeking to participate in democracy and have their grievances and voices heard. They drown them out before they even have an opportunity to speak.
These are not spontaneous grassroots occurrences. They are carefully planned, funded, organized and executed campaigns with the specific purpose of disrupting our democracy.
Take two recent examples, one from the University of California at Berkeley and the other from a California congressman’s town hall meeting in the Sacramento area.
Efforts of an officially recognized U.C. Republican’s club to host a panel discussion that included a former Breitbart editorial writer ended in flames, personal injury, property damage and cancellation of the event when paid activists hired by an out-of-state organization instigated a riot that spilled over into the streets of nearby Berkeley.
These were not the university’s students. The masked operatives that incited the riot were paid by Refuse Fascism to disrupt the event, using funds from its organizer and fiscal sponsor, The Alliance for Global Justice, of Tucson Arizona. Among its biggest contributors: The Tide Foundation of San Francisco, the City of Tucson, Patagonia.org, the Ben & Jerry Foundation and United Steel Workers, a labor union.
Less than a week later, Congressman Tom McClintock (R-Elk Grove) faced a hostile overflow crowd at a Roseville California theater. The Roseville Police Department determined that he needed to be escorted for personal safety, when he sought to dialog with those who elected or opposed him.
Like the UC event, the activists who shouted him down were there because of a nationwide campaign designed by Democratic congressional staffers, Indivisible. They were present in the name and face of one of their surrogate local groups, Indivisible Sierra Nevada. Wendy Wood, a spokesperson and chair of the group, said, “This is really all about resisting the Trump agenda. …We’re here to vote them (Trump and McClintock) out.”
Their agenda left little room for honest citizens seeking face time with their elected congressional representative.
The staffers that created the game plan that Wood was following included Angel Padilla, Billy Fleming, Caroline Kavit, Ezra Levin, Gonzalo Martínez de Vedia, Indivar Dutta-Gupta, Jennay Ghowrwal, Jeremy Haile, Leah Greenberg, Mary Humphreys, Matt Traldi, Sara Clough, and Sarah Dohl. Those individuals say their plan is intended as a “step-by-step guide for individuals, groups, and organizations looking to replicate the Tea Party’s success in getting Congress to listen to a small, vocal, dedicated group of constituents.”
Small but loud will carry the next election, that’s their prescription. The rest of us will be excluded, presumably, as losers.
Under their playbook, crossing state lines to incite riots; paying hostile agitators hourly wages to harass, injure and eventually silence other views; shouting down answers to reasonable questions; playing the media for fools and profiting from the profligate contributions of the deceived and naïve are tactics that are reasonable and just for a winner-take-all cage fight.
To those not in the game, those same tactics look more like broad-scale violations of law, intimidation, assault, battery, personal-property damage and arson. Whatever their view, they are weaponizing the political debate and no good can possibly come of it.
Hector Barajas is a partner at Merino, Barajas & Allen, a California strategic communications and public affairs firm. As a nationally recognized expert on Latino politics and public policy issues, he serves as an on-air political analyst for Univision and Telemundo.