Brown: Let loathsome Lewandowski speak at U of C

SHARE Brown: Let loathsome Lewandowski speak at U of C

President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski (R) greets guests at an Afternoon Tea hosted by the British Embassy to mark the U.S. Presidential Inauguration at The British Embassy on January 18, 2017 in Washington, DC. (File Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images)

Follow @MarkBrownCSTA students-only seminar Wednesday at the University of Chicago with former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski is drawing fire from campus groups who say such appearances encourage “white supremacists.”

The coalition of organizations protesting Lewandowski’s visit has asked the school’s Institute of Politics to withdraw its invitation to Lewandowski and to “stop providing a platform to surrogates of the Trump administration”— a reference in part to last month’s visit by Trump press secretary Sean Spicer.

If the Lewandowski event proceeds as planned, the groups say they will protest to “express outrage at the normalization of racism, bigotry and violence.”

Institute Director David Axelrod, former chief strategist and senior adviser to President Barack Obama, said he welcomes any peaceful protest as an important expression of democracy. But he said he does not intend to cancel the Lewandowski event.

“If we start embracing the notion we’re going to shut down people with whom we disagree, wherever they sit on the political spectrum, we’re in a cycle of mutually assured destruction. And the ultimate victim will be democracy itself,” said Axelrod, whose own low opinion of Trump is pretty well known.


Follow @MarkBrownCSTThere’s a lot of outrage going on these days, and I sure don’t mind if some of it is directed — constructively — at Corey Lewandowski, one of the many leeches clinging to Trump for fame and fortune.

But this seems like as good a time as any to try to make the case that those of us on the left side of the political spectrum don’t do ourselves any favors by trying to forcibly silence the voices on the right.

The last thing this country needs is more of the window-breaking, fire-setting nonsense we saw at Berkeley earlier this month in protest of a scheduled speech by right wing provocateur-creep Milo Yiannopoulos.

If we’re going to survive these next four years of a Trump presidency, we’re going to have to be smart about it, and for now at least, that doesn’t involve being the bigger bully on our home turf.

I’ve never really understood the compulsion to shout down the person with whom you disagree in the interests of free speech.

By all means, those opposed to the Trump presidency are welcome to avail themselves of the opportunity to use Lewandowski’s Hyde Park visit to express their disapproval of his policies.

An actual white supremacist might be one thing, and even there, you have to be careful. But I don’t see that Lewandowski, loathsome as he may be, requires the nuclear option.

The letter calling for the protest was signed by U of C Resists, Graduate Students United, Students Working Against Prisons and UChicago Socialists.

Citing recent incidents that included Neo-Nazi posters appearing on campus, the letter criticizes the university for not doing more in response.

“That is bad enough. But to invite a parade of Trump surrogates is considerably worse. It sends a positive signal to white supremacists that they are welcome here,” the letter states.

The Lewandowski seminar, titled “Inside Trumpism,” will be led by Robert Costa, a Washington Post political reporter who covered the Trump campaign and is serving as a visiting fellow this week at the Institute of Politics.

It’s part of a continuing series, “America in the Trump Era” that the Institute has been conducting since Trump’s election.

It seems to me like exactly the type of forum that the Institute of Politics should be providing its students, allowing for them to hear from—and challenge—speakers whose point of view may be quite different from their own.

Nearly half the country voted for Trump, and they’re not all racists, and some of them could still be pulled back from his coalition if we don’t insist on driving them away with our own displays of intolerance.

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