Hanna Bogorowski ’18 – Inside Politics Participant
On February 7th when Mitch McConnell used Senate Rule 19 on Senator Elizabeth Warren, many on the left cried out that Warren’s First Amendment rights had been stripped and degraded. Many on the right asked if McConnell had taken things too far and provided fodder for the Democrats to feel marginalized. If you follow politics or had opened a newspaper at any time that week, the drama had been real and infinite; both sides attacking one another personally rather than on the basis of ideas or healthy political discussion. That being said, I bet there’s something you missed. In the midst of the bomb throwing, Senator Marco Rubio delivered a powerful, bipartisan, and important speech on the senate floor that focused on the real issue at hand.
He begins by mentioning that the Founders of this nation and the writers of the Constitution gifted we, the citizens, with the power to bring our differences together and debate them. However, they knew this would be impossible if these debates became of a personal nature. While that may not have been the intention of Senator Warren, her stray from legitimate ideas and suggestions does not help execute the Founder’s plan for the senate floor. Rule 19 hasn’t been officially brought up since 1902 when two South Carolinians’ argument ended in a physical brawl on the senate floor. The point of that is to suggest that after Hillary Clinton’s nomination to be Secretary of State, there were no ill-intentioned comments made about her on the senate floor. When John Kerry was nominated to be Secretary of State, there were no personal comments aimed to degrade him on the senate floor. Rubio continues on to say that this is not a partisan issue, and he would be making the same speech if a Republican acted similarly. In his defense, he has been one of many Republicans who have spoken out against several of President Trump’s actions as well as other partisan issues.
The real issue is that of Free Speech, and this country’s current inability to freely exercise that right. Our country prides itself on the fact that we all can say to the person next to us, “Hey, I think abortion is wrong, and here’s why.” The best part is, the other person can turn back and say, “I understand your point. But women’s rights are at stake.” That conversation can go on and on, but unfortunately for us, it doesn’t. Those healthy discussions are largely extinct, and instead, the facts and progress are getting lost in trying to bring one another down and prove that the other person is something that they are not, and the refusal to understand why someone would feel a certain way.
In the end, it’s all of us who lose. When the most important country in the world can no longer function at a governmental level, and our leaders can’t solve even the littlest of problems, we will see the downfall of America. As you’re reading this, there are countries out there who would have me jailed or worse for saying these things. And because of that, I will not take our First Amendment for granted. Instead, I will exercise it until our country can debate effectively again and respectfully understand each other’s ideas and remember what makes the United States so great.
The views and opinions expressed are the students and the organizations whom they represent and do not necessarily represent the views of The Eisenhower Institute or Gettysburg College.