Our men and women are being killed in Iraq. Millions of people wake up every day without health insurance. Jobs are being shipped off-shore. Our economy is increasingly becoming hostage to an authoritarian regime in China. And, until today, I didn’t understand what the real important issue facing Americans truly is: a few people are burning the American flag.
At least that’s what Hillary Clinton believes. She has jumped on board with Pat Roberts, one of the most right-wing conservative members of the Senate, to co-sponsor an amendment that would criminalize flag-burning.
Clinton’s new bout of pandering is one reason I decided to challenge her and run in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate. Just a day after I officially entered the race, it should be even more clear to progressives and New Yorkers why my opponent does not deserve another term: she will sacrifice any cherished American principle for the sake of political expediency.
The principle today? The First Amendment. I understand why some people find flag-burning objectionable. But, the beauty of the First Amendment is that it protects the views of the minority even when the majority of our society thinks otherwise.
What is perhaps most appalling is the bill Clinton supports equates flag-burning to cross-burning. Why should any African American vote for a politician who can’t see the difference between a cross-burning and flag-burning? The New York Times aptly said in today’s editorial entitled “Senator Clinton, In Pander Mode,” that there is no comparison: “Burning a cross is a unique act because of its inextricable connection to the Ku Klux Klan and to anti-black violence and intimidation. A black American who wakes up to see a cross burning on the front lawn has every right to feel personally, and physically, threatened. Flag-burning has no such history. It has, in fact, no history of being directed against any target but the government.”
Today, the First Amendment, tomorrow…what? We will never know what my opponent is willing to say simply to get elected. Aren’t we tired of politicians like her who pander to peoples’ worst fears, stoke peoples’ prejudices and, in doing so, distract Americans from confronting the real challenges are country faces?