You could say this is one of the pettier controversies in the history of our national Capitol, or you could say it opens a window onto the deep disgrace of one of our political parties. I incline toward the latter view.
There is, apparently, an annual arts competition that results in a large number of paintings from the Congressional districts being displayed in a hallway between one of the House office buildings and the Capitol. The contest’s rules include this provision: “Exhibits depicting subjects of contemporary political controversy or a sensationalistic or gruesome nature are not allowed.” But when have Democrats ever paid attention to rules?
An 18-year-old in Rep. William Lacy Clay’s district submitted a painting that purported to depict Ferguson, Missouri. It apparently won the competition; I have no idea who the judges were. The painting depicts policemen as pigs:
This painting obviously violates the rule against “depicting subjects of contemporary political controversy,” and it is, in any event, outrageously inappropriate for display in the Capitol. But Congressman Clay, a far leftist, nevertheless insists that it hang in the corridor. These are the consequences:
Republican lawmakers kept taking it down, and Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-Mo., kept putting it back up.
After Clay restored the painting, Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., removed it again and took it to Clay’s office. Clay put it back up again.
A short time later, two other Republicans, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California and Brian Babin of Texas, took it down again delivered it to Clay’s office.
Clay put it back up again.
Clay says he doesn’t necessarily believe that policemen are pigs:
Joined by several lawmakers, including other members of the Congressional Black Caucus, Clay said returning the painting was about defending the Constitution.
“I do not agree or disagree with this painting,” Clay said. “But I will fight to defend this young man’s right to express himself because his artwork is true for him and he is entitled to that protection under the law.”
Of course the young man has a right to express himself, however ignorantly, but he does not have a right to have his painting hang in the corridor between the House office building and the Capitol, in violation of contest rules.
Nevertheless, it is nice to know that there is at least one Democrat who favors free speech. Some of the time, anyway:
The Missouri congressman said it is “pathetic” that some Republicans and “alt-right media types” constantly refer to themselves as constitutional conservatives, but don’t think the same document protects the free-speech rights of his constituent.
The First Amendment equally protects a painting that depicts, and celebrates–for example–a lynching. What do you suppose would be the reaction of Rep. Clay and his fellow Democrats if such a painting went on display in the same venue? These people are utter hypocrites, whose devotion to free speech ends with speech they disagree with.
But the issue here isn’t the First Amendment, it is the politically-inspired myth of police racism. The reality is that Rep. Clay and most of his fellow Democrats are delighted to see police officers depicted as pigs, because this particular smear fires up their base and is to their political advantage. The lines here couldn’t be more clearly drawn.