Salvo 04.09.2024 7 minutes

RFK Got It Right

Presidential Candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Visits “Fox & Friends”

Biden smugly refuses to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.

When presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. told CNN last week that he sees President Joe Biden as a greater threat to democracy than Donald Trump, mainstream media, academics, and elected Democrats exploded in vitriol.

Speaking on CNN’s Erin Burnett OutFront, Kennedy said, “I can make the argument that President Biden is the much worse threat to democracy, and the reason for that is President Biden is…the first president in history that has used the federal agencies to censor political speech, so to censor his opponent.”  Kennedy added: “The greatest threat to democracy is not somebody who questions election returns but a President of the United States who will use the power of his office to force the social media companies…to open a portal and give access to that portal to the FBI, CIA, the IRS, the NIH, to censor his political critics.”

Biden is not actually the first president to use federal agencies to censor political speech. Presidents John Adams and Woodrow Wilson used the Sedition Acts of 1798 and 1918 to do so, and President Roosevelt censored opponents during World War II. Nonetheless, Biden has undoubtedly overseen the most massive censorship enterprise in U.S. history, and the first to be enjoined by federal courts. That progressives embrace Biden’s affront to a right central to our democracy underscores how far the Left has travelled from its once-avowed principles. While the attack line that Trump is a fascist is so well-worn that most of us ignore it, too little attention is given to authoritarians on the Left. Fascism is a vicious ideology that was responsible for millions of deaths in the twentieth century, but communist and other socialist systems are guilty of at least ten times more murders in the name of class warfare.

Diktats enjoining protests and speeches by Christians, Jews, and pro-life Americans, or requiring oaths of obeisance to diversity, equity, and inclusion to be considered for medical school admission, faculty appointment, or promotion in the U.S. military come from the Left. Condemnation of those who deny the manifest falsehood that there are only two sexes, or that mental defects do not transmute biology also come from the Left, as does support for squatters, criminals, and (provided the objective is progressive) violent demonstrations.

It is the Left that proclaims there should be no borders, that illegal migrants should receive housing, medication, and education at taxpayer expense; that seventh-generation descendants of slaves and similarly pigmented recent immigrants should each receive many millions of dollars of reparations to be funded by melanin-deficient immigrants who also escaped harrowing persecution, none of whom owned slaves or have ancestors who did. Along with DEI, CRT, ESG, and affirmative action, these theories of eugenics and racial stereotyping are advanced by the Left in place of merit, individual freedom, and liberty.

Last year, a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously agreed with federal district court Judge Terry A. Doughty that the evidence was likely to establish that the Biden Administration had engaged in a broad attack on free speech in violation of the First Amendment. The court elegantly modified Doughty’s preliminary injunction to prohibit the defendants from taking “actions, formal or informal, directly or indirectly, to coerce or significantly encourage social-media companies to remove, delete, suppress, or reduce, including through altering their algorithms, posted social-media content containing protected free speech.”

The government appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, which stayed enforcement of the injunction over strong objections from Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Neil Gorsuch.

The Supreme Court heard oral argument last month. Instead of centering on the government’s actions in “abridging” political speech, the Court focused on the standard set by Blum v. Yaretsky (1982), a case about Medicaid that held that the government “normally can be held responsible for a private decision only when it has exercised coercive power or has provided such significant encouragement that the choice must in law be deemed to be that of the State.” Though the threats made by the administration clearly exceed the Blum threshold—Judge Doughty found that the Biden Administration had engaged in “a broad pressure campaign designed to coerce social media companies into suppressing speakers, viewpoints, and content disfavored by the government”—the Court’s emphasis on reviewing the administration’s censorship enterprise within a Blum framework is troubling. Unlike Medicaid, the Free Speech Clause is nearly absolute. It is distressing that a majority-conservative court would conflate such disparate rights.

Nonetheless, in Blum, the Supreme Court held that the government is responsible for private conduct it induces through “significant encouragement” or “coerci[on].” The government becomes responsible by “provid[ing] such significant encouragement, either overt or covert, that the choice must in law be deemed to be that of the State.” As the Supreme Court opined in Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co. (1970), it is “firmly stitched into our constitutional fabric” that officials who “in any way act to compel or encourage” impermissible conduct provide the state action that can create a federal claim.

The government asserts that no specific adverse government action was threatened or taken against recalcitrant social media platforms. It’s as if a mobster, after icily informing a potential informant that “it would be a shame if something bad happened,” innocently asserts he was talking about a day at the beach. Supreme Court justices are not naive. Neither Judge Doughty nor the Fifth Circuit fell for that molasses and cream act.

The same commentators who are quick to give Biden credit for administration actions they endorse, or for the unemployment rate, now claim that Biden is so removed from his administration that he has nothing to do with a censorship enterprise that Judge Doughty found involved at least 80 senior officials and at least 11 federal agencies, including the White House, the Departments of Health and Human Services and Homeland Security, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the FBI. Shortly after Kennedy’s appearance on CNN, the network’s fact checker Daniel Dale observed “There is no evidence that Biden has been involved [in the censorship efforts] whatsoever.” The following day, CNN anchor Dana Bash agreed, saying “there’s no evidence that Biden himself was involved.” The View co-host Sara Haines opined “President Biden is not responsible for private social media companies,” and Joy Behar called Kennedy a “liar.”

While the argument about which is worse—somebody who questions election returns or a president who will use the power of his office to force social media companies to censor his political critics—is in the eye of the beholder, at least a few things objectively are true.

For the overwhelming majority of those in the media, academia, and elected office:

  • No act in recent memory remotely approaches the horror of the events at the Capitol on January 6, 2021;
  • There is no equivalence between the widespread violence, deaths of more than 20 Americans, sustained siege of the Portland courthouse, or billions of dollars of property damage after George Floyd’s death, and the January 6 attack;
  • Though no insurrection charges have resulted from the January 6 events, Trump is nonetheless guilty of insurrection; and
  • Without any evidence or examples—other than the now discredited claim that Trump cleared protestors out of Lafayette Square to visit St. John’s Church on June 1, 2020—the Trump Administration was rife with fascist disregard of American rights.

For those who follow the facts:

  • The Biden Administration has coordinated criminal and civil attacks on Trump timed to take him off the ballot and out of the presidential race before the first vote has been cast;
  • The Justice Department has been weaponized, using SWAT-like tactics against peaceful protestors whose views do not comport with progressive dogma, while often refusing to enforce the law against leading Democrats and those who support progressive causes;
  • Biden has repeatedly sought to destroy the Supreme Court’s legitimacy, issued executive orders he knows to be unlawful, and proudly admitted to end-running Supreme Court decisions with which he disagrees;
  • Biden has adopted whole-of-government DEI policies that violate the Fourteenth Amendment and federal civil rights laws;
  • Biden refuses to enforce federal immigration laws; and
  • The Biden Administration has designed, executed, and continues to defend a whole-of-government effort to censor, deplatform, demonetize and limit political speech with which it disagrees, ranging from Covid, to inflation, the economy, humor at Biden’s expense, and the censorship program itself.

Trump’s political and litigation strategy failed to change or delay the presidential transition in 2021. There is no evidence that his administration ever indicted, imprisoned, taxed, or withheld a government benefit based on the politics of the individual. By contrast, backed by far-Left prosecutors, judges, journalists, federal bureaucrats, FBI agents, automatic weapons, regulators, and the full power of the federal government and progressive states, Biden is engaged in a massive attack on free speech and the financial rights and liberties of his political opponents.

By most standards, Trump may often be a nasty blowhard, but Biden, who willfully and proudly refuses to faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, or to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, is by any rational standard the far more dangerous threat to democracy.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

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