Political Disagreement Is Not Justification for Harassment

File photo: Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders holds a daily briefing, at the White House in Washington, Oct. 20, 2017. Tom Brenner/The New York Times Copyright 2017 The New York Times.

“If you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them, and you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere,” Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters said recently.

What she’s calling for his more harassment of Trump administration officials after White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was asked to leave a restaurant by the owner because of her work for the Trump administration.

Florida Attorney General (and Trump ally) Pam Bondi was also harassed at a movie theater. DHS Secretary Kristjen Nielsen was also driven from a restaurant by protesters. Even in a non-political context, actor Seth Rogen recently humiliated House Speaker Paul Ryan in front of his kids.

This behavior is justified, we’re told, because the public policies these people support are so odious they cannot merely be objected to and opposed. They must be harassed. The must be made to feel scared and intimidated.

If Trump’s critics have convinced themselves that his administration’s immigration policies are akin to Nazism – “preposterous” says historian Niall Ferguson, but clearly many believe it – then treating members of that administration like Nazis is the logical next step.

It’s a scary thing. Remember just last year a deranged man, hopped up on left wing invective, tried to murder a group of Republican members of Congress on a baseball field in Virginia.

Heck, just days ago I had someone on Facebook suggesting I be jailed for my commentary critical of Senator Heidi Heitkamp.

This is where our rhetoric is in America right now. There is no “loyal opposition” any more. Just the evil villains on the other side who are increasingly dehumanized by opposing rhetoric.

If Trump’s critics have convinced themselves that his administration’s immigration policies are akin to Nazism – “preposterous” says historian Niall Ferguson, but clearly many believe it – then treating members of that administration like Nazis is the logical next step.

The problem is that the right helped open this can of worms. Remember when Rep. Joe Wilson shouted “liar” at President Obama during an address to Congress? There are more recent examples, too.

Here’s Trump at a rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in February 2016: “If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously, okay. Just knock the hell — I promise you I will pay for the legal fees, I promise.”

In Saint Louis a month later: “Nobody wants to hurt each other anymore, right? And they’re being politically correct the way they take them out, so it takes a little bit longer. And honestly, protesters, they realize it. They realize that there are no consequences to protesting anymore.”

Trump was reacting to protesters at his rallies who were clearly there to disrupt, but that doesn’t justify him calling for violence against those protesters.

“The problem is that this cycle of tit-for-tat leads more and more people conclude that the opposition only understands the language of force and that they cannot be negotiated with, persuaded, or even tolerated in a form of coexistence,” Jim Geraghty wrote for National Review today.

He’s right. If both sides start feeling that way what we’re going to get, inevitably, is violence.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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