Ok, not that Bush. This was Hunter Bush, 21, of Lexington, Kentucky who was arrested with Joe Fischer, 22, a UK student, for hanging an effigy of Barack Obama from a tree. The charge was for disorderly conduct, though it is unclear why these men were arrested while a recent example of hanging Palin was not made into a criminal matter.
We just discussed the law governing these displays in class. The Secret Service will investigate anything that might be a threat to a presidential candidate — which is a crime under federal law. That law has always been controversial since it sweeps into core areas of political speech.
It is a mistake to criminalize such displays, however moronic they may be. Ultimately, the creep who hanged Palin in effigy was persuaded to take it down. in the end, Chad Michael Morrisette did more for the McCain camp than a thousand McCain signs. Whatever high ground existed for Obama in these stories over destroyed signs and effigies, Morrisette guaranteed that it was lost for Obama supporters. Yet, these dim-witted acts should be viewed as political speech, so long as it is done on private property or in areas allowing public displays.
Obama has been hanged in effigy in at a small Christian college in Oregon and Clarksville, Indiana. There was a racist effigy hanged in Ohio. In Redondo Beach, Calif., woman not only hanged Obama in effigy but put a bloody butcher knife in its neck. None were charged with criminal violations. Instead, the public put pressure on these village idiots to conform their conduct to civil society.
The most distressing aspect of these stories of electrified signs, shooting of sign kickers, and effigy hangers is that they all involve people who will vote for the next president. If that is not an argument for an oligarchy or alternative to democratic elections, I am not sure what is.