We, the undersigned, have long since known that you have a list—an enemies list of intellectual foes you wish to isolate. But our policy differences are not why we write. We write today with grave concern over political leadership in a time of deep national division. We write at a time when free speech and association are more important than ever in our national experiment. How will we, together, solve problems if we cannot speak? How can you lead when you refuse to listen?
You were elected by the people to build consensus and find compromise—to fiercely debate the most pressing issues of our day. Often, these debates are meant to be contentious and without a clear solution because innovation comes from great challenge. Sadly, our democracy and our freedom hangs in the balance as you use your office to bully and single out groups to blame rather than ideas to debate.
Just as you do, our civil society organizations represent many, many millions of Americans and a wide array of perspectives and interests. They deserve and increasingly demand healthy and respectful political dialogue, and well-informed, well-debated public policies. To support the debate our founders intended, all Americans have the right to support causes they believe in without fear of threats from overzealous government officials—threats paraded and perpetrated by you on the Senate floor.
The delicate balance of our democracy is preserved when all groups are free to speak in the public square, and ALL Americans should be concerned when agents of the
government use their official offices to marginalize political foes.
Your enemies list groups together organizations that themselves maintain differing perspectives. While you have singled us out, labeling us as the enemy, we don’t even always agree with one another. And that’s the point: disagreement breeds solutions.
We hear you. Your threat is clear: There is a heavy and inconvenient cost to disagreeing with you. Calls for debate will be met with political retribution. That’s called tyranny.
And, we reject it.
At the birth of our nation, patriots asserted their right to speech and broke British law in doing so. King George used the full force of the British crown to suppress the rebellion— to suppress speech. In spite of the tyrant’s commands and because they had put their lives on the line to defend their rights, the patriots enshrined free speech in our founding documents; the same documents that gave you your job.
In a country where you should be the patriots leading us into a great future, sadly today you are the tyrants.
Americans for Tax Reform
Lisa B. Nelson
American Legislative Exchange Council
John A. Charles, Jr.
Cascade Policy Institute
Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Franklin Center for Government and Policy Integrity
Georgia Public Policy Foundation
The Heritage Foundation
Idaho Freedom Foundation
The Heartland Institute
J. Robert McClure III
James Madison Institute
The John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy
John Locke Foundation
Kansas Policy Institute
Mackinac Center for Public Policy
Montana Policy Institute
Sharon J. Rossie
Nevada Policy Research Institute
Pacific Research Institute
Pelican Institute for Public Policy
Paul J. Gessing
Rio Grande Foundation
Virginia Institute for Public Policy
Carol Platt Liebau
Yankee Institute for Public Policy