Recently, Barack Obama held a campaign rally at Loudoun County High School. I spoke to my Loudoun Republican friends and they were all incensed about this. I’m not talking about the counter protest that they organized which they are free to do. I am talking about Loudoun Republicans surmising ways in the legal process to prohibit President Obama from using Loudoun County High School as the location for his campaign rally.
The truth is that under the 1st Amendment and its Supreme Court rulings, public schools and other public facilities are allowed to host political events provided that the facility is equally accessible to all viewpoints and that everyone adhere to the same time, place, and manner restrictions that the public facility can reasonably impose. Simply stated, if Democrats are allowed to hold their political event for free, Republicans must be able to hold their event for free as well. If rent is charged, rent must be equal for all parties. If the school district officially closes all business activity after midnight and a political party wants to use a school at 2:00am, this is a reasonable time, place, and manner restriction if it is applied equally to all parties.
Unless a public official is performing official government business at an Loudoun County public school, rent is charged. The Obama campaign paid the rent. They had the privilege of using Loudoun County High School for the political rally. That is the end of the story.
Yet, I am dismayed that my fellow Republicans are pre-programmed to hate everything that Obama does without thinking deeply about the issue at hand and its unintended consequences. My Loudoun Republican friends told me all kinds of crazy rants and ideas on how to stop Obama’s political activities on public school grounds.
Many were concerned that public school teachers and administrators would be able to sit on stage and speak. These Republicans perceive that public school teachers are overwhelmingly Democratic and wondered if there was a way to muzzle them under the Hatch Act (hint: the Hatch Act does not apply to public school teachers, administrators, and staff). Do these same Republicans know that Virginia House of Delegates Majority Leader Kirk Cox is a Republican who continues to work as a full-time public school teacher? Are these Republicans willing muzzle one of our own in an effort to broadly silence the opposition? Apparently so. They just hate Democrats that much.
The argument that it was possibly unconstitutional for Obama to campaign on public school grounds was brought up quite a bit by my Loudoun Republican friends.
Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan will hold a campaign rally at West Springfield High School this Friday. I have not heard a single word from Republicans questioning if it is proper for a political candidate to hold a political rally at a public school in this instance. I have not heard a single concern from Republicans about public school teachers sitting on stage and making endorsements for Romney-Ryan (yes, Republican public school teachers do exist). I have not heard a single concern from Republicans about the cost to taxpayers for traffic management and clean up of the facilities after the event.
So here is the summary of the attitudes of the Republican activist base.
Obama speaks at a public high school. Bad. Unconstitutional. Traffic nightmare. Waste of taxpayer dollars to cover externalities not paid for by rent by the Obama campaign.
Paul Ryan speaks at a public high school. Let’s camp outside early in the morning so we can sit up close! Hey, do you have connections to elected officials so we can sit in the VIP section on stage? OMG! OMG! OMG! Paul Ryan is such a heartthrob!
Double standards and hypocrisy. Democrats and Republicans are both guilty.
I will vote Republican, but my advice to Republicans is to tone down the volume, get rid of the blind hatred of Democrats, and reach out to others. Often, it is not Republican principles that people don’t like. It is Republican activists who scare away the people by their behavior.