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If Free Speech Doesn’t Survive Ruling Class Demagoguery, Neither Will Democracy

Ruling elites’ hypocrisy and hierarchy are undermining the very institutions they purport to support. 

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Back in 2016, former eBay and Hewlett-Packard CEO (and, of course, failed California gubernatorial candidate) Meg Whitman gave a stirring interview to The New York Times about democracy. 

Democracies, Whitman said, have rarely lasted longer than a few hundred years, with the implication being that for America, which will celebrate its 250th anniversary in 2026, the clock is ticking. Whitman said anybody who thought American democracy would last forever was being naïve.

Of course, at the time, Whitman was talking about Donald Trump, the “demagogue” that elites from both major political parties said would drag America away from a constitutional republic and toward dictatorship — the bogeyman that even enlightened Republicans like Whitman refused to support. 

They were wrong: Despite his flaws, Trump was never a threat to democracy. He did not cancel elections like some claimed he would do. He did not crack down on civil liberties. When he did go too far, America’s institutions — especially the courts — checked those abuses. California filed more than 100 lawsuits against the Trump administration. That’s the way American government is supposed to work. 

For good measure, voting rights also expanded while Trump was president. More people voted in the 2020 presidential election than any other election in American history. 

But Whitman was right: American democracy is under attack. All Western democracies are under attack. And we shouldn’t assume they’ll survive. But Trump is not the threat. The elites themselves are the threat. They are the demagogues. And their hypocrisy and hierarchy are undermining the very institutions they purport to support. 

The Democrat Party’s blatantly political prosecutions of Trump and Trump associates — done while fretting about Trump using the DOJ to target his political opponents if he wins this year — are the most obvious and chilling examples. They crossed a Rubicon from which we may never recover. But other examples abound. 

One was on display last week at the U.S. Supreme Court, as multiple justices made excuses for the federal government’s effort to remove dissenting viewpoints from the digital town square. It was chilling to listen to the court’s three Democrats — women who, just a few generations ago, would not have been allowed to vote, much less sit on that bench — talk about how the law should be interpreted to protect the government when it tries to silence its critics. I wonder what dissidents like Susan B. Anthony and Martin Luther King Jr. would think of that. 

In fact, last week was as bad a week as we have ever seen for free speech. It started with the disastrous Murthy arguments but was followed by a shocking story about Scotland’s new Hate Crime Act. That law, which was enacted in 2021 but has yet to be enforced, criminalizes the act of “stirring up hatred.” 

What does that mean? Apparently, local police get to decide, and the victims get to play an outsized role in that decision. 

The law’s vague language and knee-jerk reaction to anything alleged victims complain about endangers everybody, including Scotland’s most famous thought criminal, J.K. Rowling. The Harry Potter author correctly believes there are only two sexes: male and female. She believes, correctly, that the trans activism so in style with the elites often impinges on women’s rights. Like many, she often says so. Unlike many, she has the money and clout to (for the most part) avoid the cancel culture that silences other dissidents. 

So now law enforcement may be coming after her, with The Telegraph revealing a Scottish police training exercise centered on a “fictional” writer named “Jo” who makes public comments like “there are only two genders.” Being accused of a hate crime for stating a scientific fact must be the peak of wokeness. 

Don’t assume the crackdown on speech is limited to small countries with overeducated bureaucrats like Scotland and Canada, either. Take Germany. That European democracy is in trouble, with some three-quarters of Germans saying they do not like Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s regime, the highest level of German discontent reported this century. 

How did the German elites respond? They proposed something called a “Democracy Promotion Bill.” Sounds nice, but the bill mostly focuses on fighting “extremism” in arbitrary ways like creating an online portal where Germans can report their fellow citizens for conservative speech such as saying, you guessed it, “There are only two sexes.” The Stasi must be smiling somewhere. 

This crackdown on free speech represents the most egregious assault on human rights since World War II. And it exposes the hypocrisy of the elites who champion it. After all, according to the UN, that bastion of elite globalism, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” 

Not anymore. 

Of course, the criminalization of free speech is not the only example of elite hierarchy. These are also the people who crow about trusting “science” but refuse to acknowledge the scientific fact that there are only two sexes, no matter how somebody feels inside. They are the ones who drone on about voting rights while trying to keep their political opponents off the ballot. (And, no, I am not talking just about Trump but about anybody who challenges the status quo, including Democrats.) They are the ones who lecture us about civility but show incredible vitriol to those who disagree with them. The ones who fret about corruption while their own family members rake in millions from shady foreigners. The ones who crow about bodily autonomy when on-demand abortions are at stake but are the most aggressive in pushing Covid shots on those who don’t want them. 

No wonder ordinary people across the Western world are unhappy. That’s why the crackdown on free speech is so dangerous. How can people gather, organize, and kick the elites out of office without it? 

We can’t. And that’s why we need to rally against this crackdown now. America is the most successful democratic government in human history. It has spawned democratic governments across the world. But it won’t last forever. The first freedom falling may be the last straw. 


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