Contributions by ‘Heidi Kitrosser’

Impeachment, Free Speech, and the Cancel Culture Narrative

In Part I of this Essay, I provide an overview of Trump’s First Amendment arguments against his second impeachment and against conviction by the Senate. I also summarize major scholarly responses to the same. In Part II, I build on existing arguments against imposing constraints derived from First Amendment case law on the impeachment process. My contribution is grounded in free speech theory and its relationship to accountability. I explain that a central purpose of free speech is to keep government actors accountable, making it more difficult for them to hide their misdeeds and enabling the people to respond to the same. Were the First Amendment to narrow the range of impeachable “high Crimes and Misdemeanors,” it would constrict the potential political accountability of government officers who abuse the public trust. In Part III, I move from legal to rhetorical aspects of Trump’s defense, focusing on Trump’s framing of his free speech argument as a response to “cancel culture.” This rhetoric, I explain, casts further light on the accountability-dodging nature of Trump’s First Amendment argument, and of the cancel culture narrative itself. A conclusion follows.

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