Ahh—perhaps this is how we lose our freedoms: absurdity. It’s damn hard to get indignant when you’re laughing.
Nevada has banned the wearing of chicken suits at polling places, a clear infringement of political speech. Republicans were alarmed because the front-runner in their June primary to decide who will challenge the vulnerable Harry Reid for the U.S. Senate, Sue Lowden, inspired a wave of giant chicken sightings after she opined that perhaps citizens should be able to barter for medical care, paying doctors, for example, with chickens. Now wags in chicken suits are clogging her rallies to mock her, and Democrats have launched a “Chickens for Check-ups” website.
In response, the Republican dominated State Elections Commission moved to protect its favorite candidate by shielding potential Lowden voters from chicken suit sightings, implying that this would constitute a symbolic message of “Your candidate is an idiot.”
The chicken suit ban will survive legal challenges, I expect, because Nevada, like most states, bans buttons, banners, signs and other campaign advocacy material within a hundred feet of polling places. Nonetheless, it constitutes government censorship of a specific partisan message, and that is troubling, or should be. The problem is that everyone is so busy grabbing at obvious puns and chuckling at the inherent silliness of a chicken suit ban is that the underlying free speech issue is buried. “The state has stepped in to “buck buck buck” a recent trend surrounding the pecking order in its Senate campaign,” one news story began. “A Fowl Law,” another was headlined. “Chicken Suit Wearers Say, ‘What the Cluck?’ About Nevada Polling Ban,” screamed one blog. And so on.
Is this how freedom dies—not under an iron boot, but a rim shot? Where is the outrage? I would like to see flocks of men and women in chicken suits at Nevada polling places in a massive demonstration of civil disobedience. Turn the jails into chicken coops, I say! Best of all, this stand for Free Speech won’t offend Muslims, Christians, or any religious group—-just PETA, and maybe Joann Worley.