Tag Archives: First Amendment

AZ Republicans in danger of clipping own wings

Updated: May 26, 2015

Last week reports started surfacing about Arizona republicans forming a committee to study the effects of barring indipendants from their primaries. Nothing is official yet, but before the GOP make such a bold decision, it’s very important that they consider all the ramifications. Independents have become the largest voting bloc in the state, which is a good and bad thing for republicans. But it’s also a good and bad thing for democrats. If republicans can’t manage this double-edged sword without cutting themselves, then they don’t deserve to get the independent vote in the first place.

The “problem” is independents are allowed to vote in either primary (democrat or republican) and many conservatives are worried that allowing independents to do so will hurt their platform. Essentially what they’re saying is they’re worried about the more open-minded voter “diluting” the hardcore republican candidate pool. But have any of these conservatives stopped to consider that this may be what they need? Look at Mitt Romney. He actually had a good chance of winning the White House until his fellow party members convinced him to adopt a far more conservative image.

If Arizona republicans decide it is a good idea to bar independents, it will only serve to hurt them in the long run. But it seems they haven’t put too much thought into it. Arizona GOP Communications Director Tim Sifert said in a phone interview, “No work will be done [on the committee] untill after November 4th. We’re focused right now on winning the election.”

And what about the democrats? What’s their take on this? I know independents can just as easily insert more conservative-minded candidates into democratic elections if they choose to go with blue primaries, but are the Dems just as afraid of this diluting their base as republicans are? According to Arizona Democratic Executive Director DJ Quinlan, “I think in an age where independents are the largest voting bloc in Arizona, for one of the major political parties to block them from their primaries is absolutely ludicrous. It sends the wrong signal to independents and taxpayers, since primaries are publicly funded. We have to come to terms with how we are going to engage citizens and voters, and you certainly don’t do that by excluding people.”

Quinlan went on to say that as far as the republican’s authority to exclude independents from their primaries is concerned, there is a legal precedent. “In 2013 the Libertarian party was able to limit their primaries to libertarian voters,” he said. But he was quick to add, “There is no one kind of independent, and we [democrats] welcome them to vote in our primaries.”

If we take a step back and look at the bigger picture, this isn’t just about protecting the republican base in Arizona. This is about the right to free speech and the representation of an entire group of people. What right do the republicans (or any group, for that matter) have to prevent people from voting in party primaries? It’s the right of every American to vote for who they want to represent them, whether it be in a general or primary election. Denying them that right for any reason other than being a convicted felon is a violation of the First Amendment and the Constitution in general.

(Photo credit to WN.com)

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Ferguson

Updated: May 24, 2015

What happened in Ferguson is not something that is normally seen on American soil: militarized police forces directly attacking journalists. The context for what happened on August 13th in Ferguson, Missouri does not justify police behavior, and in fact only casts a darker shadow over their shooting of unarmed African-American teenager, Michael Brown.

Those reporters were simply trying to cover the protests and riots across Ferguson, but instead of cooperation from police, they were met with tear gas, rubber bullets, TAZERs and other forms of non-lethal force. This egregious example of unprovoked police brutality not only damages law enforcement’s justifications for shooting Brown, but also shows them to be guilty of violating the First Amendment in a very disturbing way. The Huffington post has a great article regarding journalist/police relations that I’ve linked below:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/13/journalists-attacked-police-ferguson_n_5677098.html.

These attacks against members of the Fourth Estate only raise further questions about police ethics, conduct, and whether or not police departments across the country are becoming over-militarized. Tensions over the shooting of Brown have been riding high in Ferguson for the past two weeks, and the aggravated assault of journalists is only pouring salt into the wounds. The police in Ferguson can wave goodbye to any form of sympathy from the press or the public, and if they still hope to gain some empathy, they had better start realizing who their friends are in the field: reporters.

Reporters mold public opinion more-so than any other professional group, and in a town where the majority of citizens are black and most of the police force is white, getting good PR would be an invaluable asset for the cops to have.

Instead of being afraid of the press, police in Ferguson should start using them to their advantage. However, if policemen and women conduct themselves in a way that undermines the legitimacy of their agency, journalists are going to find out and report it. A problem becomes 1000 times worse when people attempt to cover up their wrongdoings, instead of being straightforward with those asking questions. If more police practiced the latter, it would earn them major bonus points with the people writing articles and reports about their behavior.

In today’s world of fast internet and smartphones, it is especially dangerous for agencies with high public visibility like the police to be found using excessive force, even when it is justified. The reason for this is viewers are not going to understand the context in which the aggression is taking place, therefore they are likely to side with the more vulnerable party. This may not be a problem if the footage finds its way to a news station where journalists can disseminate and vet the information, but if the video lands on YouTube the content can be framed however the uploader wishes it to be.

The Ferguson PD and all other law enforcement agencies involved in the attacks on journalists over the past week deserve every ounce of bad press that they are receiving. And until they can learn to use journalism as a tool to better their image, instead of seeing it as a threat, police will continue to circle the drain of public opinion.

(photo credit to USAToday.com)