Normally I don’t put politics on this blog, but there are reasons to make the occasional exception; this is one of them. My State Assemblywoman, Speaker of the Assembly Karen Bass (D), voiced some opinions regarding the rights of free speech that I found, well, objectionable. The following is the letter I sent her:
Dear Speaker Bass,
As a resident of the 47th district, I’m writing to express not just dismay, but absolute shock at the opinions you expressed in an interview with Patt Morrison of the Los Angeles Times. This is the exchange in question:
How do you think conservative talk radio has affected the Legislature’s work?
The Republicans were essentially threatened and terrorized against voting for revenue. Now [some] are facing recalls. They operate under a terrorist threat: “You vote for revenue and your career is over.” I don’t know why we allow that kind of terrorism to exist. I guess it’s about free speech, but it’s extremely unfair.
So, wait a second. Calling up a talk show or the legislator’s office directly and expressing a strongly-held opinion is the equal of terrorizing someone? Promising to oppose their candidacy or even to attempt to recall them -a process provided for under state law- is terroristic? For a talk-show host to call attention to legislation he opposes to try to gather opposition to it is extremely unfair?
Perhaps it’s slipped your mind, but Americans, even Californians, have the right to free speech and to petition for the redress of grievances, even if rudely expressed. It’s protected under the 1st Amendment in the Bill of Rights. May I also remind you of Article 1, Section 2(a) of the California Constitution:
ARTICLE 1 DECLARATION OF RIGHTS
SEC. 2. (a) Every person may freely speak, write and publish his or her sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of this right. A law may not restrain or abridge liberty of speech or press.
Everything you complained about is protected political speech under both the US and California constitutions and surely cannot be considered “abuse.” They are expressions of the natural-born rights of all people, and for you as a public official to accuse political opponents exercising these same rights of being terroristic is elitist, insulting, and profoundly anti-democratic. That you, one of the highest officials of our state government, should complain that free speech allows this to happen is appalling, and it calls into question your qualifications to serve in any elected office.
So, let me engage in a little free speech of my own: I do not want someone with your cavalier attitude toward the rights of citizens to represent me in any capacity, and I will work to see you replaced in the next election.
Is it any wonder that the state of California is in the mess it’s in, when its so-called leaders hold the electorate and democracy itself in such contempt?