The U.S. has started becoming a country of protesters once again, largely in response to the proposed policies and rhetoric of President Donald Trump. In response, citing the ostensible grounds of disorderliness and manipulation, Republican lawmakers have introduced bills to curb protesting in at least 17 states, with possibly more to come. I don’t approve, and if you don’t either I have a sorry message for you: This trend has been the bipartisan thrust of American policy since the 1970s.
For decades, we’ve restricted protests to protect safety and public order, but an important part of our democracy has eroded, namely the constitutional right to public assembly. I outline this history in one chapter of my new book, “The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream”; it is just one of many examples of how Americans are giving up their former dynamism for greater security, and to the possible long-run detriment of society.