by Bex Rothen­berg-Montz*

Over 20.9 mil­lion peo­ple work for fed­er­al, state, or local gov­ern­ments in the Unit­ed States.1 Although these indi­vid­u­als do not explic­it­ly for­feit their con­sti­tu­tion­al­ly-pro­tect­ed right to free speech upon accept­ing gov­ern­ment employ­ment,2 gov­ern­ment employ­ees enjoy few­er free speech pro­tec­tions than non-employ­ees.3 The First Amendment’s pro­tec­tions do not apply to gov­ern­ment employ­ees’ speech when it is made pur­suant to their offi­cial duties4 and the speech does not address a mat­ter of pub­lic con­cern.5 Even when these two pre­con­di­tions are met, courts still apply a bal­anc­ing test to deter­mine whether the gov­ern­ment may cur­tail the speech.6

This bal­anc­ing test was intro­duced by the Supreme Court in Pick­er­ing v. Board of Edu­ca­tion, which announced that pub­lic employ­ees have free speech pro­tec­tions and estab­lished the bound­aries of those pro­tec­tions.7 In Pick­er­ing, the Court held that the gov­ern­ment may not reg­u­late its employ­ees’ speech when “the inter­ests of the [employ­ee], as a cit­i­zen, in com­ment­ing upon mat­ters of pub­lic con­cern” out­weigh “the inter­est of the State, as an employ­er, in pro­mot­ing the effi­cien­cy of the pub­lic ser­vices it per­forms through its employ­ees.”8 To deter­mine whether speech impairs the effi­cien­cy of the government’s pub­lic ser­vice, courts con­sid­er “whether the state­ment impairs dis­ci­pline by supe­ri­ors or har­mo­ny among co-work­ers, has a detri­men­tal impact on close work­ing rela­tion­ships for which per­son­al loy­al­ty and con­fi­dence are nec­es­sary, or impedes the per­for­mance of the speaker’s duties or inter­feres with the reg­u­lar oper­a­tion of the enter­prise.”9

The Court lat­er expand­ed upon the Pick­er­ing bal­anc­ing test in Con­nick v. Mey­ers and implic­it­ly held that the government’s inter­ests do not need to be sup­port­ed by evi­dence.10 In Con­nick, Assis­tant Dis­trict Attor­ney Mey­ers was unhap­py with her supervisor’s deci­sion to trans­fer her and cir­cu­lat­ed a ques­tion­naire around her office solic­it­ing her cowork­ers’ views about cer­tain issues, includ­ing office trans­fer pol­i­cy, office morale, and whether employ­ees felt pres­sured to work on polit­i­cal cam­paigns.11 In response, the Dis­trict Attor­ney dis­missed Mey­ers.12 The gov­ern­ment lat­er jus­ti­fied the dis­missal by claim­ing Mey­ers’ ques­tion­naire was an “act of insub­or­di­na­tion which inter­fered with work­ing rela­tion­ships.”13

The Court held that the gov­ern­ment could silence pub­lic employ­ees, if it “rea­son­ably believed [the speech] would dis­rupt the office, under­mine [super­vi­sors’] author­i­ty, and destroy close work­ing rela­tion­ships.”14 How­ev­er, the Court did not exam­ine any evi­dence that Mey­ers’ speech caused such a dis­rup­tion. Nonethe­less, the Court gave “a wide degree of def­er­ence to the employer’s judge­ment.”15 There­fore, under the Con­nick test, courts “defer[] to a pub­lic employer’s mere antic­i­pa­tion of dis­rup­tion as grounds for employ­ee dis­ci­pline” with­out requir­ing the gov­ern­ment to present sup­port­ing evi­dence.16

Courts’ def­er­ence to the gov­ern­ment is par­tic­u­lar­ly harm­ful in the age of social media because courts take into account the public’s reac­tion in addi­tion to that of cowork­ers and supe­ri­ors when deter­min­ing whether speech is dis­rup­tive.17 The poten­tial for pub­lic dis­rup­tion – and with it the cred­i­bil­i­ty of the government’s “rea­son­able” belief of dis­rup­tion – is made more like­ly by the lurk­ing poten­tial that gov­ern­ment employ­ees’ social media posts will go viral.18 Under the Court’s cur­rent guid­ance, the gov­ern­ment can cite an amor­phous “rea­son­able” belief that either the pub­lic or gov­ern­ment employ­ees will have a neg­a­tive reac­tion to speech and a court will rely upon these inter­pre­ta­tions with­out inves­ti­ga­tion.19

*****

This def­er­ence is in stark con­trast with free speech cas­es involv­ing mem­bers of the gen­er­al pub­lic, where courts do not defer to the government’s pre­dic­tion of harm.

For exam­ple, in Cor­nelius v. NAACP Legal Defense and Edu­ca­tion­al Fund, Inc., the Nation­al Asso­ci­a­tion for the Advance­ment of Col­ored Peo­ple (“NAACP”) claimed the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment vio­lat­ed the First Amend­ment by exclud­ing it from a char­i­ty dri­ve aimed at fed­er­al employ­ees, the Com­bined Fed­er­al Cam­paign (“CFC”).20 Under First Amend­ment jurispru­dence, the gov­ern­ment may reg­u­late the public’s speech in a non-pub­lic forum – which includes pub­licly owned facil­i­ties that have nev­er been des­ig­nat­ed for indis­crim­i­nate expres­sive activ­i­ty by the gen­er­al pub­lic.21 Free speech restric­tions in a non­pub­lic forum must be “rea­son­able in light of the pur­pose served by the forum” and “view­point neu­tral.”22 Since the Con­nick court found the CFC was a non­pub­lic forum, it addressed whether the government’s restric­tion was “rea­son­able in light of the pur­pose served by the forum.”23 Rather than defer­ring to the government’s claims that allow­ing for the NAACP to cam­paign at the CFC would cause “con­tro­ver­sy” and “unwel­come dis­rup­tion” which might jeop­ar­dize the CFC,24 the Court con­duct­ed its own analy­sis. It looked to con­tem­po­ra­ne­ous expres­sions of con­cern about includ­ing “polit­i­cal” char­i­ties in the CFC, cit­ing com­plaints about the inclu­sion of such char­i­ties in the CFC, and point­ing to evi­dence that the gov­ern­ment was strug­gling to obtain employ­ee con­tri­bu­tions.25 Only after a thor­ough dis­cus­sion of the government’s evi­dence of dis­rup­tion did the Court find the restric­tion to be “rea­son­able.”26

Like gov­ern­ment work­places, non­pub­lic forums are not gen­er­al­ly open to the pub­lic and are places where the gov­ern­ment has a sig­nif­i­cant inter­est in main­tain­ing con­trol.27 How­ev­er, courts scru­ti­nize gov­ern­ment claims of poten­tial dis­rup­tion in cas­es where non-pub­lic employ­ees speak28 with­out extend­ing this scruti­ny to pub­lic employ­ees.29

*****

The dif­fer­en­tial treat­ment between pub­lic employ­ees and mem­bers of the gen­er­al pub­lic is in con­flict with the prin­ci­ples under­ly­ing Pick­er­ing. Pri­or to Pick­er­ing, courts rea­soned that it was per­mis­si­ble to impose speech restric­tions that would be uncon­sti­tu­tion­al when inflict­ed upon mem­bers of the gen­er­al pub­lic because pub­lic employ­ment was vol­un­tary.30 Pick­er­ing renounced this assump­tion, hold­ing that “[t]he the­o­ry that pub­lic employ­ment which may be denied alto­geth­er may be sub­ject­ed to any con­di­tions, regard­less of how unrea­son­able, has been uni­form­ly reject­ed.”31 Instead, the Court rea­soned that the government’s restric­tion was not per­mis­si­ble because “the inter­est of the school admin­is­tra­tion in lim­it­ing [the employee’s] oppor­tu­ni­ties to con­tribute to pub­lic debate is not sig­nif­i­cant­ly greater than its inter­est in lim­it­ing a sim­i­lar con­tri­bu­tion by any mem­ber of the gen­er­al pub­lic.”32 By requir­ing the gov­ern­ment to jus­ti­fy its restric­tions, the Court estab­lished that gov­ern­ment employ­ees do not have lim­it­ed free speech rights because of their sta­tus as pub­lic employ­ees.33 In fact, it demon­strat­ed quite the oppo­site: that, at base­line, pub­lic employ­ees must be treat­ed like the gen­er­al pub­lic.34 By apply­ing dif­fer­ent lev­els of def­er­ence to the government’s asser­tion of dis­rup­tion for pub­lic employ­ee and non-employ­ee speech, the Con­nick court breaks its own rule.

*****

Con­nick’s def­er­ence should be revoked because it is incon­sis­tent with the three prin­ci­pal jus­ti­fi­ca­tions for free speech. First, pro­tect­ing unpop­u­lar speech is fun­da­men­tal to the judiciary’s goal of pre­serv­ing a rich mar­ket­place of ideas, in which the First Amend­ment allows for truth to be revealed through free and fair dia­logue.35 Under the mar­ket-place of ideas the­o­ry, pro­tect­ing pub­lic employ­ees’ free speech ensures robust pub­lic dis­course in which many diverse voic­es can debate and com­pete with one anoth­er.36 The Court has already acknowl­edged “the impor­tance of pro­mot­ing the public’s inter­est in receiv­ing the well-informed views of gov­ern­ment employ­ees engag­ing in civic dis­cus­sion,”37 because pub­lic employ­ees are “like­ly to have informed opin­ions as to the oper­a­tions of their pub­lic employ­ers, oper­a­tions which are of sub­stan­tial con­cern to the pub­lic.”38 Con­nick’s def­er­ence under­mines this jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for free speech rights by silenc­ing the views of indi­vid­u­als who have spe­cial insight into gov­ern­ment functioning.

Sec­ond, pro­tect­ing unpop­u­lar speech pro­tects democ­ra­cy.39 Demo­c­ra­t­ic gov­er­nance is par­tic­i­pa­to­ry and there­fore con­tin­gent upon some lev­el of free speech.40 There is near-uni­ver­sal agree­ment that free speech is required to main­tain a democ­ra­cy.41 When elec­tions are reg­u­lar­ly won by less than 5% of the vote,42 allow­ing the par­ty in pow­er to silence 8% of the pop­u­la­tion43 with­out jus­ti­fi­ca­tion is con­trary to the demo­c­ra­t­ic process.

Final­ly, pro­tect­ing free speech rights safe­guards the rights of per­son­al expres­sion and dig­ni­ty.44 Pub­lic employ­ees have the same dig­ni­tary inter­ests as mem­bers of the gen­er­al pub­lic.45 A jurispru­dence which allows the gov­ern­ment to reg­u­late 20.9 mil­lion people’s speech with impuni­ty, by requir­ing no evi­dence to sup­port its asser­tions, works counter to those indi­vid­u­als’ dig­ni­tary inter­ests by any mea­sure. These three prin­ci­ples can be safe­guard­ed once more by reject­ing Con­nick’s def­er­ence.

In Con­nick, the Supreme Court dilut­ed the Pick­er­ing bal­anc­ing test by requir­ing absolute def­er­ence to gov­ern­men­tal claims of even antic­i­pat­ed dis­rup­tion. This def­er­ence under­mines the premise that free speech pro­tec­tions are uni­ver­sal. Extend­ing to pub­lic employ­ees the scruti­ny exact­ed when the gov­ern­ment reg­u­lates the gen­er­al public’s speech would allow courts to safe­guard the prin­ci­ples under­ly­ing free speech pro­tec­tions, rather than abdi­cat­ing this role through undue deference.


* Bex Rothen­berg-Montz is a J.D. Can­di­date (2023) at New York Uni­ver­si­ty School of Law. This Con­tri­bu­tion arose from the prob­lem pre­sent­ed at the 2022 Uni­ver­si­ty of Wis­con­sin-Madi­son Law School Evans Moot Court Com­pe­ti­tion and exam­ines an incon­sis­ten­cy dis­cov­ered while research­ing the competition’s sec­ond ques­tion – when is a gov­ern­ment employee’s speech pro­tect­ed by the First Amendment?

1. 2021 ASPEP Datasets & Tables, Cen­sus Bureau, https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/apes/data/datasetstables/2021.html (report­ing 13.580 mil­lion local gov­ern­ment employ­ees and 5.248 mil­lion state gov­ern­ment employ­ees in 2021); Cong. Rsch. Serv., R43590, Fed­er­al Work­force Sta­tis­tics Sources: OPM and OMB 1 (2022) (find­ing 2.1 mil­lion civil­ian fed­er­al employees).

2. See Pick­er­ing v. Bd. of Educ., 391 U.S. 563, 568 (1968) (observ­ing that the the­o­ry “that teach­ers may con­sti­tu­tion­al­ly be com­pelled to relin­quish the First Amend­ment rights they would oth­er­wise enjoy as cit­i­zens to com­ment on mat­ters of pub­lic inter­est in con­nec­tion with the oper­a­tion of the pub­lic schools in which they work . . . has been unequiv­o­cal­ly reject­ed in numer­ous pri­or deci­sions of this Court”).

3. See, e.g., City of San Diego v. Roe, 543 U.S. 77, 80 (2004) (“[A] gov­ern­men­tal employ­er may impose cer­tain restraints on the speech of its employ­ees, restraints that would be uncon­sti­tu­tion­al if applied to the gen­er­al public.”).

4. See Garcetti v. Cebal­los, 547 U.S. 410, 421 (2006) (“We hold that when pub­lic employ­ees make state­ments pur­suant to their offi­cial duties, the employ­ees are not speak­ing as cit­i­zens for First Amend­ment pur­pos­es, and the Con­sti­tu­tion does not insu­late their com­mu­ni­ca­tions from employ­er discipline.”).

5. See Con­nick v. Myers, 461 U.S. 138, 146 (1983) (“[I]f [the employee’s speech] can­not be fair­ly char­ac­ter­ized as con­sti­tut­ing speech on a mat­ter of pub­lic con­cern, it is unnec­es­sary for us to scru­ti­nize the rea­sons for her discharge.”).

6. See Pick­er­ing, 391 U.S. at 568.

7. Id.

8. Id.

9. Rankin v. McPher­son, 483 U.S. 378, 388 (1987). See also, e.g., Grutz­mach­er v. Howard Cnty., 851 F.3d 332, 345–46 (4th Cir. 2017) (find­ing that a fire depart­ment commander’s Face­book com­ments about gun vio­lence were not pro­tect­ed speech because they “impaired Depart­ment oper­a­tions and dis­ci­pline as well as work­ing rela­tion­ships with­in the Depart­ment,” and “sig­nif­i­cant­ly con­flict­ed with Plaintiff’s respon­si­bil­i­ties as a bat­tal­ion chief”); Volk­man v. Ryk­er, 736 F.3d 1084, 1092 (7th Cir. 2013) (hold­ing that a cor­rec­tions officer’s crit­i­cism of an inter­nal inves­ti­ga­tion was not pro­tect­ed because it under­mined “main­tain­ing order and respect” among cor­rec­tion­al offi­cers); Boyd v. Miss. Dep’t of Pub. Safe­ty, 751 F. App’x 444, 450 (5th Cir. 2018) (hold­ing the same where a police officer’s email sug­gest­ing pro­mo­tions favored non-white employ­ees because it “inter­fered with the oper­a­tions of the depart­ment . . . [when] the email cre­at­ed a ‘racial ruckus’ and [] mem­bers of the SWAT team expressed con­cerns that they did not feel safe oper­at­ing with [the officer]”).

10. Con­nick, 461 U.S. at 152.

11. Id. at 140–41.

12. Id. 141.

13. Id. at 151.

14. Id. at 154.

15. Id. at 152; see also Waters v. Churchill, 511 U.S. 661, 673 (1994) (plu­ral­i­ty opin­ion) (not­ing that courts give “sub­stan­tial weight to gov­ern­ment employer’s rea­son­able pre­dic­tions of disruption”).

16. Toni M. Mas­saro, Sig­nif­i­cant Silences: Free­dom of Speech in the Pub­lic Sec­tor Work­place, 61 S. Cal. L. Rev. 1, 4 (1987).

17. See Pick­er­ing, 391 U.S. at 570 (assess­ing whether the teacher’s speech would “foment con­tro­ver­sy and con­flict among the Board, teach­ers, admin­is­tra­tors, and the res­i­dents of the dis­trict”); Ben­nett v. Metro. Gov’t of Nashville & David­son Cnty., 977 F.3d 530 (6th Cir. 2020) (find­ing the government’s inter­est in har­mo­ny among cowork­ers and not being per­ceived as racist out­weighed a 311 operator’s inter­est in using racial slurs on Facebook).

18. Christi­na Jare­mus, #Fired­for­Face­book: The Case for Greater Man­age­ment Dis­cre­tion in Dis­ci­pline or dis­charge for Social Media Activ­i­ty, 42 Rut­gers L. Rec. 1, 34 (“Inter­net post­ings would be con­sid­ered pre­sump­tive­ly dis­rup­tive to the government’s abil­i­ty to pro­vide effi­cient and effec­tive ser­vices to the pub­lic due to their abil­i­ty to go viral.”).

19. E.g., Graziosi v. City of Greenville, 985 F. Supp. 2d 808, 814–15 (N.D. Miss. 2013), aff’d sub nom. Graziosi v. City of Greenville Miss., 775 F.3d 731 (5th Cir. 2015) (hold­ing in the alter­na­tive that a police officer’s post on social media crit­i­ciz­ing the department’s fail­ure to pay for offi­cers’ gaso­line was not pro­tect­ed speech because it cre­at­ed a “buzz” around the office).

20. 473 U.S. 788, 790 (1985).

21. See 1 Rod­ney A. Smol­la, Smol­la & Nim­mer on Free­dom of Speech § 8:8 (3d ed. 1996); see also, e.g., Minn. Vot­ers All. v. Man­sky, 138 S. Ct. 1876, 1886 (2018) (hold­ing a polling place is a non­pub­lic forum); Int’l Soc. for Krish­na Con­scious­ness, Inc. v. Lee, 505 U.S. 672, 680 (1992) (find­ing an air­port ter­mi­nal is a non­pub­lic forum); Greer v. Spock, 424 U.S. 828, 838 (1976) (hold­ing a mil­i­tary base is a non­pub­lic forum); Adder­ley v. Fla., 385 U.S. 39, 47–48 (1966) (find­ing a jail is a non­pub­lic forum).

22. Cor­nelius, 473 U.S. at 806 (cit­ing Per­ry Educ. Ass’n v. Per­ry Loc. Edu­ca­tors’ Ass’n, 460 U.S. 37, 49 (1983)).

23. Id.

24. Id. at 807.

25. Id. at 810.

26. Id. at 811–13.

27. See Per­ry Educ. Ass’n, 460 U.S. at 46 (“[T]he State, no less than a pri­vate own­er of prop­er­ty, has pow­er to pre­serve the prop­er­ty under its con­trol for the use to which it is law­ful­ly ded­i­cat­ed.” (quot­ing U.S. Postal Serv. v. Coun­cil of Green­burgh Civic Ass’ns, 453 U.S. 114, 129 (1981)).

28. See, e.g., Ne. Pa. Freethought Soc’y v. Cnty. of Lack­awan­na Tran­sit Sys., 938 F.3d 424, 439 (3d Cir. 2019) (“[W]hen the state seeks to ban par­tic­u­lar top­ics for fear of pub­lic con­tro­ver­sy, it must make a show­ing of threat­ened dis­rup­tion.”); Tuck­er v. Cal. Dep’t of Educ., 97 F.3d 1204, 1211 (9th Cir. 1996) (explain­ing that the government’s restric­tion on speech is unrea­son­able when the gov­ern­ment “makes at most only a min­i­mal show­ing that one individual’s speech has dis­rupt­ed the work­place, or threat­ens to do so”).

29. See, e.g., Waters v. Churchill, 511 U.S. 661, 673 (1994) (plu­ral­i­ty opin­ion) (“[W]e have con­sis­tent­ly giv­en greater def­er­ence to gov­ern­ment pre­dic­tions of harm used to jus­ti­fy restric­tion of employ­ee speech than to pre­dic­tions of harm used to jus­ti­fy restric­tions on the speech of the pub­lic at large.”); Kokki­nis v. Ivkovich, 185 F.3d 840, 845 (7th Cir. 1999) (“Def­er­ence to the employer’s judg­ment regard­ing the dis­rup­tive nature of an employee’s speech is espe­cial­ly impor­tant in the con­text of law enforcement.”).

30. See, e.g., McAu­li­ffe v. City of New Bed­ford, 29 N.E. 517, 517 (Mass. 1892) (Holmes, J.) (“The peti­tion­er may have a con­sti­tu­tion­al right to talk pol­i­tics, but he has no con­sti­tu­tion­al right to be a policeman.”).

31. Pick­er­ing v. Bd. of Educ., 391 U.S. 563, 568 (1968) (quot­ing Key­ishi­an v. Bd. of Regents, 385 U.S. 589, 605–06 (1967)).

32. Id. at 573.

33. See Randy J. Kozel, Free Speech and Par­i­ty: A The­o­ry of Pub­lic Employ­ee Rights, 53 Wm. & Mary L. Rev. 1985, 2011 (2012) (“By reject­ing the Holme­sian view and its sin­gu­lar focus on the exis­tence of an employ­ment rela­tion­ship, the Court ren­dered that fact irrel­e­vant to the con­sti­tu­tion­al cal­cu­lus. No longer is it suf­fi­cient to answer the ques­tion, ‘Why do I have weak­er First Amend­ment rights than my peers?’ with the response, ‘Because you work for the government.’”).

34. See Kozel, supra note 33 (“[E]mployees and oth­er cit­i­zens are pre­sumed to be sim­i­lar­ly sit­u­at­ed for pur­pose of the First Amendment.”).

35. See John Stu­art Mill, On Lib­er­ty 34 (Batoche Books 2001) (1859) (“[I]f [an opin­ion] is not ful­ly, fre­quent­ly, and fear­less­ly dis­cussed, it will be held as a dead dog­ma, not liv­ing truth.”); Cit­i­zens Against Rent Con­trol v. City of Berke­ley, 454 U.S. 290, 295 (1981) (“The Court has long viewed the First Amend­ment as pro­tect­ing a mar­ket­place for the clash of dif­fer­ent views and con­flict­ing ideas”); Abrams v. Unit­ed States, 250 U.S. 616, 630 (1919) (Holmes, J., dis­sent­ing) (“[T]he best test of truth is the pow­er of the thought to get itself accept­ed in the com­pe­ti­tion of the market.”).

36. See Brett G. John­son, The Heckler’s Veto: Using First Amend­ment The­o­ry and Jurispru­dence to Under­stand Cur­rent Audi­ence Reac­tions Against Con­tro­ver­sial Speech, 21 Commc’n. L. & Pol’y 175, 207 (2016) (“The the­o­ry of the mar­ket­place of ideas holds that the First Amend­ment is not a means to effec­tive demo­c­ra­t­ic gov­er­nance, but to attain­ing truth.”).

37. Garcetti v. Cebal­los, 547 U.S. 410, 419 (2006).

38. City of San Diego v. Roe, 543 U.S. 77, 82 (2004). Com­pare Ben­nett v. Metro. Gov’t of Nashville & David­son Cnty., 977 F.3d 530, 539 (6th Cir. 2020) (allow­ing restric­tion when the pub­lic employ­ee com­ment­ed on a top­ic “of which she had no spe­cial insight”), cert. denied, 141 S. Ct. 2795 (2021), and Kokki­nis v. Ivkovich, 185 F.3d 840, 844 (7th Cir. 1999) (allow­ing restric­tion when a police officer’s “basis for his knowl­edge of the alleged sex dis­crim­i­na­tion was min­i­mal at best.”), with Cotare­lo v. Vill. of Sleepy Hol­low Police Dep’t, 460 F.3d 247, 252 (2d Cir. 2006) (find­ing that a police officer’s alle­ga­tion of racial dis­crim­i­na­tion was “pro­tect­ed activ­i­ty” when the offi­cer pro­vid­ed spe­cif­ic exam­ples of dis­crim­i­na­tion and had expe­ri­enced dis­crim­i­na­tion himself).

39. Robert C. Post, Racist Speech, Democ­ra­cy, and the First Amend­ment, 32 Wm. & Mary L. Rev. 267, 279 (“In pro­tect­ing pub­lic dis­course the first amend­ment serves the pur­pos­es of democracy.”).

40. James Wein­stein, Par­tic­i­pa­to­ry Democ­ra­cy as the Cen­tral Val­ue of Amer­i­can Free Speech Doc­trine, 97 Va. L. Rev. 491, 498 (2011) (“If an indi­vid­ual is exclud­ed from par­tic­i­pat­ing in pub­lic dis­course because the gov­ern­ment dis­agrees with the speaker’s views or because it finds the ideas expressed too dis­turb­ing or offen­sive . . . then to that extent and with respect to that cit­i­zen, the gov­ern­ment is no democ­ra­cy, but rather an ille­git­i­mate autocracy.”).

41. Id. at 497 (cit­ing Mills v. Alaba­ma, 384 U.S. 214, 218 (1966) (“What­ev­er dif­fer­ences may exist about inter­pre­ta­tions of the First Amend­ment, there is prac­ti­cal­ly uni­ver­sal agree­ment that a major pur­pose of that Amend­ment was to pro­tect the free dis­cus­sion of gov­ern­men­tal affairs.”)). But see Toni M. Mas­saro & Helen L. Nor­ton, Free Speech and Democ­ra­cy: A Primer for Twen­ty-First Cen­tu­ry Reform­ers, 54 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 1631, 1639 (2021) (argu­ing the abun­dance of speech result­ing from tech­no­log­i­cal advances under­mines democ­ra­cy); Alexan­der Tsesis, Dig­ni­ty and Speech: The Reg­u­la­tion of Hate Speech in a Democ­ra­cy, 44 Wake For­est L. Rev. 497, 516–18 (argu­ing broad allowances for hate speech under­mine demo­c­ra­t­ic val­ues). See gen­er­al­ly Michel Rosen­feld, Hate Speech in Con­sti­tu­tion­al Jurispru­dence: A Com­par­a­tive Analy­sis, 24 Car­do­zo L. Rev. 1523 (2003).

42. Elec­tion Results, 2020: Con­gres­sion­al Elec­tions Decid­ed by 10 Per­cent­age Points or Few­er, Bal­lot­pe­dia (Feb. 8, 2021), https://ballotpedia.org/Election_results,_2020:_Congressional_elections_decided_by_10_percentage_points_or_fewer (“In 2020, 42 con­gres­sion­al races (five Sen­ate and 37 House) were decid­ed by less than a 5 per­cent margin.”).

43. The 20.9 mil­lion pub­lic employ­ees, 2021 ASPEP Datasets & Tables, supra note 1, com­pose 8.1% of the adults in the Unit­ed States. See Stel­la U. Ogun­wole et al., Pop­u­la­tion Under Age 18 Declined Last Decade, Cen­sus Bureau (Aug. 12, 2021), https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2021/08/united-states-adult-population-grew-faster-than-nations-total-population-from-2010-to-2020.html (258.3 mil­lion peo­ple liv­ing in the Unit­ed States are adults).

44. See Alexan­der Tsesis, Free Speech Con­sti­tu­tion­al­ism, 2015 U. Ill. L. Rev 1015, 1028 (2015) (“One of the most often stat­ed ratio­nales for pro­tect­ing free speech is soci­ety’s oblig­a­tion to safe­guard the right of thought­ful and artic­u­late per­sons to com­mu­nica­tive­ly exer­cise their intel­lec­tu­al capac­i­ties.”); Dun & Brad­street, Inc. v. Green­moss Builders, Inc., 472 U.S. 749, 787 (1985) (Bren­nan, J., dis­sent­ing) (“[F]reedom of expres­sion is . . . intrin­sic to indi­vid­ual lib­er­ty and dig­ni­ty.”). But see Tsesis, supra, at 1029 n.58 (explain­ing free speech restric­tions oth­er democ­ra­cies impose to pro­tect individual’s humanity).

45. See Tsesis, supra note 44, at 1028 (“[S]peech is a dig­ni­tary inter­est of each autonomous human being.”)