In the wake of Georgetown City council member Karen Tingle-Sames’ social media post about President-Elect Joe Biden, the News-Graphic has received a barrage of letters both defending and lambasting Tingle-Sames and the post. That, obviously, does not include the hundreds of comments on social media and elsewhere.
Many of the letter writers use the First Amendment to defend Tingle-Sames and her right to freedom of speech.
Obviously, that freedom is precious to this newspaper, and we agree Tingle-Sames has every right to express her opinions and viewpoints however, and wherever she wishes. But having the freedom of speech is not always without consequences. Every writer must determine the risks they are willing to take to share their thoughts and opinions. In the United States, those consequences often amount to angry responses on social media or in the newspaper. In other countries, consequences can be much more dire.
But just as Tingle-Sames has a right to her opinion, so too, do those who may disagree with her. Their opinions are also protected by the First Amendment.
What seems to be missed in the discussion by those defending her is that Tingle-Sames is a public-elected official. So, her opinions carry a little more weight than the opinions of others, because she shares the responsibility for passing legislation that affects all walks of life within her jurisdiction. The City of Georgetown employ hundreds of people and these employees likely include people of every race, gender, sexual orientation, religion and nationality.
So people who are dismayed by Tingle-Sames’ post have every right to suggest she resign her position on the city council.
Of course, she obviously does not have to abide by those wishes and there is a very strict, virtually impossible action Tingle-Sames’ peers on the council could take to remove her: A unanimous vote.
And that is as it should be. It should not be easy to remove a council member or any other public elected official from office. To do so haphazardly would be to undermine the will of the people. And Tingle-Sames was just recently elected by the people to return to the council. In fact, she finished third among the eight eventually elected, and Tingle-Sames has historically finished high among council candidates.
She was even elected mayor.
So, ultimately, except in extreme circumstances, the decision to remove any elected official should be left up to the voters.
It just so happens we have just recently held an election. An election by all indications that was fair and just — despite the baseless accusations from the White House — and that includes the election of Tingle-Sames to another term on the council.
Tingle-Sames has not apologized for her post. To her credit she has owned the post, although she admits it could have been more “eloquent.” She has also attempted to embrace and listen to those who may have disagreed.
As painful as this episode has been, it has demonstrated the strength of our nation and our society. The disagreements have been shared back-and-forth, and now many people have a better view of where everyone stands. Obviously, Tingle-Sames’ strong views about Biden and the election shocked many people. Obviously, Tingle-Sames was shocked by the strong push-back she received from some in the community.
But despite some people who complained this episode revealed how fragile our First Amendment rights may be, we disagree.
This episode revealed exactly how the First Amendment works. It may have been painful and not always pretty, but what our community witnessed was our First Amendment rights in action.