There's no defending a comparatively few violent criminals who think molotov cocktails are an acceptable form of political expression. But what do you say about hundreds of liberal Democrats from one Maryland community who want to boycott a business whose owner dares to show his support for John McCain?
The sign went up Sunday evening, bold black letters against the stark white background of the marquee at the Colony South Hotel & Conference Center in Clinton: "Country First. McCain/Palin."
By daybreak, pandemonium had broken loose all across heavily Democratic Prince George's County. Many local supporters of Democrat Barack Obama, jolted by the message as they headed down Branch Avenue on their Monday morning commutes, grabbed cellphones and BlackBerrys to notify friends. Operators of neighborhood e-mail group lists cried foul to their memberships. The NAACP logged calls. Community leaders demanded boycotts of the hotel, a common venue for Democratic events.
"Businesspeople have to be mindful of the sentiments and sensibilities of their market trading area, and Prince George's County is overwhelmingly for Obama," said community activist Arthur Turner of Kettering, who was among those advocating a boycott. "People I have talked to look at the sign as a slap in the face. They feel it was blatant disrespect. . . . I have heard people say they will no longer patronize Colony South because of that disrespect."
One Democrat even offers a comment that could have been used to defend a boycott of the Dixie Chicks:
"While a business has the right to display what it chooses, the public has a right to show its contempt for that decision, including boycotting," said Mel Franklin, president of the Greater Marlboro Democratic Club.
So much for freedom of expression! Half the population of Clinton, Maryland seems ready to shut down the hotel simply because of the owner's political views. Don't expect a national focus however, on the attempts by Obama supporters to squelch dissenting views. That wouldn't fit with the narrative.
And a side note: Prince George's County is probably home to more federal employees than any other county in the nation. The hotel sits on one of the main commuting routes to downtown Washington. It's more than likely that many of the boycott proponents are government workers.