Biden is a threat to free speech. Trump should call him on it.

Since his dystopian speech outside of Independence Hall in 2022, President Joe Biden has made "democracy is on the ballot" his campaign theme. Pundits have repeated the mantra, claiming that if Biden is not elected, American democracy will perish.

While some of us have challenged these predictions, the other presidential candidates are missing a far more compelling argument going into this election. While democracy is not on the ballot this election, free speech is.

The 2024 election is looking strikingly similar to the election of 1800 and, if so, it does not bode well for Biden.

In my book "The Indispensable Right: Free Speech in an Age of Rage," released last week, I discuss our long struggle with free speech as a nation. It is an unvarnished history with powerful stories of our heroes and villains in the struggle to define what Justice Louis Brandeis called our "indispensable right."

One of the greatest villains in that history was President John Adams, who used the Alien and Sedition Acts to arrest his political opponents – including journalists, members of Congress and others. Many of those prosecuted by the Adams administration were Jeffersonians. In the election of 1800, Thomas Jefferson ran on the issue and defeated Adams.

Government efforts to limit free speech are Orwellian

We are now seeing what is arguably the most dangerous anti-free speech movement in our history. President Joe Biden is, in my view, the most anti-free speech president since Adams. Under his administration, we have seen a massive censorship system funded and directed by the government.

A federal judge described the system as "Orwellian" in its scope and impact.

Biden has repeatedly called for greater censorship and accused social media companies of “killing people” by not silencing more dissenting voices. Other Democrats such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts have pushed for restrictions on "unacceptable" speech.

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The Biden administration seeks to censor even true statements as disinformation.

For example, I testified before Congress last year on how Jen Easterly, who heads the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, extended her agency’s mandate over critical infrastructure to include “our cognitive infrastructure.” The resulting censorship efforts included combating “malinformation” – described as information “based on fact, but used out of context to mislead, harm, or manipulate.”

The left has picked up the cudgels of censorship and blacklisting once used against them. During the McCarthy period, liberals were called "communist sympathizers." Now, conservative justices are called "insurrectionist sympathizers."

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Candidates should call out Biden on censorship

In this election, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Jill Stein, Donald Trump and Cornel West should talk about the threats against free speech at every debate and stump speech. They will have to overcome a news media that has been complicit in the attacks on free speech, but these candidates can break through by raising it as a key issue dividing Biden from the rest of the field.

Democrats and the news media have hammered away at cracking down on those accused of "disinformation." The public, however, has not been won over by those seeking to limit their right of free speech or the push to amend the First Amendment because it's too "aggressively individualistic."

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So far, the anti-free speech movement has flourished largely in the echo chambers of academia and the media. It is time for the public to render its judgment.

As discussed in my book, we are hardwired for free speech. It is in our DNA. Despite these periods of crackdowns on free speech, we have always rejected those who wanted to regulate the views of others. Jefferson called the Federalists “the reign of the witches.” (Ironically, Jefferson would himself prosecute critics, though not to the same extent as Adams).

Attacks on free speech have returned with a vengeance before another presidential election. After fighting in the courts and in the public to expand censorship, Biden should now have to defend it with the voters. Let's have at it, as we did in 1800.

Free speech is again on the ballot. It is time for the public to decide.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University and the author of "The Indispensable Right: Free Speech in an Age of Rage."

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: What should Trump say at the debate? Call out Biden about free speech