Candidates should shut down hateful speech at campaign rallies because they may just win


When a woman stands up and says the sitting President who you are opposing should be tried for treason, and you can’t muster the good sense to say let’s disagree vehemently without crying treason righteously, you disparage a real civic understanding of the office of the Presidency and implicitly signal and approval of a very low threshold for contempt for the President who is the Head of State, Head of Government and Commander in Chief of the US of A. Elected officials pass laws and executive orders that are ruled unconstitutional all the time. That’s why we have courts to rule against, clarify or uphold these laws and orders. If she believes that something is unconstitutional, fine.

Treason is not in that neighborhood. Romney should be wise to maintain that distinction between thinking people are bad or over zealous executives and thinking that the President is a traitor. McCain did it out of duty and decency and this was magnified in his fantastic concession speech at the close of the 2008 election. It’s also key to President Obama’s message where he calls his opponents patriotic Americans who he has a difference in opinion with. He disagrees with the existence of the policy, not the existence of the candidate.

When Romney didn’t respond to the woman at his rally who alleged the President was a traitor well, for who knows what, he validates this wild, unfounded criticism for any presidency, even his own. Romney’s performance casts him as a callow cynic who’s willing to delegitimize a public office he has coveted for years or a rudderless fool who can’t be prescient enough to imagine how such wild-minded criticism becoming conventional wisdom for much of the populace could weaken a President’s ability to lead his country. A weakened Presidency is an unwelcome burden for any person who holds the office.