Are Herbst, Linares helping Russians sow divisiveness?

I'm not so impressed with Haddam Selectman Melissa Schlag's choice of protest against Donald Trump, though I think that in kneeling for the Pledge of Allegiance, she certainly is exercising her right to free speech in a way she believes is in no way disrespectful to the flag, the country she says she loves or the veterans who have served it.

Indeed, I understand the instinct behind her first drop to her knees, the same day President Trump publicly sided with and complimented the Russian president, who is attacking our free elections.

This publicly elected official in a small Connecticut town wanted to somehow register her horror at what happened in Helsinki and the ongoing Russian attacks. Her mistake was not seeing how her simple protest could be so misconstrued — especially, apparently, by those who don't see that our president so obviously is conspiring with the enemy.

Her quiet protest at the start of the Board of Selectmen meeting — to register somehow that there is something fundamentally wrong in America, that it's not business as usual even in small town meetings — may hardly have registered beyond town lines if not for selfish interference by two ambitious Republican politicians.

Both gubernatorial candidate Tim Herbst and candidate for treasurer Sen. Art Linares seized on Schlag's simple demonstration to whip up protests and call attention to their own dimming prospects in the Aug. 14 primary.

Linares went so far as to shoot a social-media-ready video protesting Schlag's protest and called on her to apologize and resign. I don't recall Linares stepping up to protest when our government was taking children from their parents and losing track of them, doing real and lasting harm.

The GOP protests of the Schlag protest were made-to-order social divisiveness for Russians intent on undermining our democracy, and it's hard not to think Russian election meddling didn't help spread the Haddam protests to conservative websites across the country. Isn't that how the Schlag story likely ended up on a Russian news site?

Thanks to candidate Herbst and state Sen. Linares, from your president's pal in the Kremlin.

If not for this engineered social divisiveness, there is no other way candidate Herbst ever would have been invited to make a national television appearance on Fox & Friends, an interview he later shamelessly used as a fundraising plea.

Linares, who evidently settled on a run for treasurer as the most likely strategy for winning statewide office, certainly needed any help that he could get at this juncture in his campaign. After all, the Republican he is running against, Thad Gray of Salisbury, actually is qualified for the office and is running on those credentials, not cheap gimmicks.

I guess I shouldn't have expected more from the Trump-loving Sen. Linares who, at a meeting with constituents defending GOP efforts in Washington to roll back health care coverage, couldn't muster an answer that he supports gay rights, when specifically asked to.

It seems to me sowing social divisiveness is far more unpatriotic, especially given the context of the ongoing election meddling in our country, than a quiet protest at the start of a selectmen's meeting. Attacking public officials' right to free speech is chilling. Trying to divide your constituents rather than unite them is political malpractice.

Maybe the senator is the one who should resign.

I am sure there are enough reasonable Republicans in Connecticut to reject these egocentric hate-spreading pot stirrers on Aug. 14. Many will instead collectively endorse competence and dedication to the principles of freedom and democracy that have long made our country great.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

d.collins@theday.com

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