In a political season during which we thought we’d seen it all, we’re now seeing a reprise of an ancient irony in which a would-be target of malice informs his tormenters that “you meant to do me harm but it turned out for my good.”

Isn’t that a delicious thought as Donald Trump now stands poised to inherit a windfall of outrage ignited by nitwits who saw silencing him as their last resort, having failed at every other attempt to derail this juggernaut of angry voters who have joined forces behind him.

First they called him a sexist. Then they called him a racist. When that failed, they scraped the bottom of the barrel by likening him to a Nazi, just because his enthusiasts hoisted their hands to convey support. They’d probably confuse a sporting event with the Third Reich.

Now this: Unable to tarnish his appeal, they seek to forcibly seal his lips, so caught up in their zeal that they can’t see how they’re enraging everyone else.

As Billy Bulger once said of a fellow speaker, “To a battle of wits he comes unarmed.”

That was funny, but there’s nothing the least bit funny about this hijacking of democracy. Unable to make a rational case against him, his detractors have resorted to the fury of a mob, the way they do in other countries.

But that’s not how we do things here, is it?

Whether they liked George W. Bush or not, most Americans were aghast over the brazen insolence of Muntadhar al-Zaidi, the 30-year-old Iraqi journalist who removed his shoes, then heaved them at Bush during a press conference in Baghdad. Remember?

Bush represented America; those shoes were aimed at America!

So our resentment was visceral, except for demagogic nitwits who rejoiced at the sight of their president forced to duck behind a podium.

But is that how we, too, are beginning to express ourselves these days?

Even in this country you’ll find journalists who are kindred spirits with al-Zaidi, albeit smart enough to keep their shoes on while shutting down his rally.

Where was their condemnation? Where was their philosophical outrage?

Wouldn’t you think anyone who makes his or her living in the exercise of free speech would be among the fiercest critics of what happened in Chicago?

Forget the personality involved; what about the principle? What about giving all sides a chance to be heard? Do we no longer embrace the notion of a loyal opposition?

If impudent hordes succeed in silencing Trump today, who are they going to silence tomorrow?

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(c)2016 the Boston Herald

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