March 16, 2016 1:48 pm -


trump-pull-my-fingerThis morning, celebrity candidate Donald Trump once again brought up the issue of political violence, this time possible trouble if he is denied the GOP presidential nomination. You’d almost think he wants to sow chaos and violence:

Fresh off three more primary victories, Donald Trump said Wednesday he’ll blow off the next Republican presidential debate and warned of “riots” if power-brokers deny him the nomination at the convention even if he’s leading in the delegate count.

The billionaire New York developer, who held a narrow lead in Missouri and lost Ohio on Tuesday, is faced with the prospect of a floor fight at the party convention in July if he’s leading in delegates but falls short of a majority, 1,237.

“I think we’ll win before getting to the convention, but I can tell you, if we didn’t and if we’re 20 votes short or if we’re 100 short and we’re at 1,100 and somebody else is at 500 or 400 cause we’re way ahead of everybody, I don’t think you can say that we don’t get it automatically,” Trump said on CNN on Wednesday. “I think you’d have riots.”

There is a strong argument to be made that maybe the gane show host turned political candidate should choose his words a bit more carefully, because the first amendment may not serve as his defense:

Has he crossed the line from protected speech into unprotected incitement to violence?

Under the landmark 1969 Supreme Court ruling Brandenberg v. Ohio, even hateful, racist speech is fully protected under the First Amendment—unless, that is, “it is advocacy directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.” By that measure, much of Trump’s worst speech is safe. As contemptible as it is that high schoolers are now chanting “build a wall” at Hispanic students from a rival school, or that third graders in Fairfax County are now pointing out which children will be deported when Trump is elected, it is pretty clear that while he is morally responsible for polluting the discourse, he isn’t on the legal hook for this sort of thing.

The question comes down to whether Trump is across that incitement line based on what he tells people to do at his rallies.



D.B. Hirsch
D.B. Hirsch is a political activist, news junkie, and retired ad copy writer and spin doctor. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.