Donald Trump, U.S. president-elect, has a deep love for Twitter.
He’s stirred up much angst, using his account to create a spectacle of his personal and political attacks, and on occasion, as a way to make amends. Now that he is the president-elect and uses Twitter to communicate with the American people, his tweets can reasonably be looked at as representation of his official stance on any issue he comments on. That’s why today’s tweet about flag-burning gave me pause.
I have complex feelings about burning the American flag. I hate to see it — really hate it — and have nothing but contempt for people who do it. But I always come back to Freedom of Speech is a right that cannot be tampered with. So if flag burning is free speech, then flag burning is legal.
It would be an interesting and fair point if Trump said, “The Supreme Court should revisit whether flag-burning is a Constitutional right.” But his tweet has different implications, and shows how important Freedom of Speech is, and it illustrates that he doesn’t realize he shouldn’t publicly rant about his opinions, when his opinion involves the controversial expression of a Constitutional right. Trump isn’t a private citizen anymore.
Presidents, over time, have been allowed to give themselves extraordinary powers they were never meant to have. One of the many dangers to allowing one person that much power is that presidents now can (and do) act unilaterally on matters of great importance.
It’s not just harmless venting when Trump says an activity that is now a Constitutional right should not be allowed, and suggests a year in jail and revoking citizenship as a penalty… not when he may conceivably have the power to do it.