At a September 2008 campaign rally in Elko, Nevada, Barack Obama, then-senator and president-to-be, egged on the crowd.
“I need you to go out and talk to your friends and talk to your neighbors,” he said. “I want you to talk to them, whether they are independent or whether they are Republican. I want you to argue with them and get in their face.”
All too many of Obama’s left-wing acolytes appear to have taken him at his word. Nearly 18 months after he left office, we’re seeing what is arguably the most disturbing trend in modern politics—the “get in their face” intolerance of the hard left.
These so-called “progressive” activists in increasing numbers are harassing and haranguing Trump administration officials and other Republican politicians in public settings.
So much for first lady Michelle Obama’s assertion at the 2016 Democratic convention: “When they go low, we go high.”
The latest in a disturbing string of recent examples occurred over the weekend when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was followed to his car by protesters “who hurled both personal insults and political rhetoric at him as he left” a restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky, CNN reported.
Video of the encounter shows protesters chanting “Vote you out!” and “Abolish ICE!” One man is heard repeatedly telling McConnell, “We know where you live,” which prompted the startled CNN anchor to call the implied threat “a disturbing development.”
Also Saturday, former Trump adviser Steve Bannon was accosted at a Richmond, Virginia, bookstore by an unidentified woman who screamed and swore at him and called him “a piece of trash.” Black Swan Books owner Nick Cooke asked her to leave, and when she wouldn’t, so he called the police, prompting her to flee.
Philippe Reines, a former aide to Hillary Clinton, then tweeted the Black Swan’s contact information, including its address, phone number, and email address.
After Twitter followers accused Reines of risking inciting violence and one called it “disgraceful,” he then tweeted, implausibly, that he did so “w/o encouraging any behavior.”
Six days earlier, on July 2, a woman confronted then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt at a Washington restaurant, insisting that he resign before “scandals push you out.” Her husband recorded the encounter on cellphone video, which subsequently went viral on Facebook.
Three days later, Pruitt did resign, but although the woman’s demand had nothing to do with it (President Donald Trump asked for his resignation), the takeaway for many on the left is likely to be otherwise. It will surely encourage more of the same boorish behavior.
The same day Pruitt resigned, a 30-year-old man was arrested and charged with theft after he yanked a teen’s “Make America Great Again” cap off his head and threw the youth’s soda literally “in his face” at a Whataburger fast-food eatery in San Antonio two days earlier.
The teen’s close encounter with the “in your face” left came about 10 days after Sarah Huckabee Sanders, press secretary to Trump, pointedly was asked June 22 to leave an eatery in Lexington, Virginia, owned by a woman euphemistically described by The Washington Post as “a politically conscious restaurateur.”
Red Hen owner Stephanie Wilkinson said she thinks Sanders works for an “inhumane and unethical” administration.
Restaurants are part of what’s called the “hospitality” industry, but there was nothing particularly hospitable about Wilkinson sending away Sanders, her husband, and six others in her party. The “politically conscious restaurateur” then followed them to another nearby eatery to continue the harassment.
Such is the political climate we find ourselves in today, as exemplified by the #Resist movement, which has turned everything into a “Never Trump” moment. As such, the “diss” to Sanders was not an anomaly.
The same day the Sanders party of eight was sent seeking sustenance elsewhere, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, a Trump supporter and ferocious foe of Obamacare, was confronted and verbally harangued at a Tampa movie theater.
Bondi was initially accosted by a woman, but “three huge guys came up and started—probably an inch from my face—screaming at me, every word in the book, cursing as loud as they could,” Bondi subsequently recounted on Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends.”
Also that same day, about two dozen leftists protested outside Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s Alexandria, Virginia, townhouse in response to the Trump administration’s now-rescinded policy of separating children from their illegal immigrant parents at the border.
Three days earlier, Nielsen had been chased out of a Mexican restaurant near the White House by a left-wing mob incensed by her role in the administration’s zero-tolerance policies on illegal immigration.
Unhinged left-wing Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., threw gasoline on the fire, encouraging more of this kind of disruption and the “absolutely harassing” of members of the Trump administration.
“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,” Waters said at a Los Angeles rally June 24.
The left has made a cause celebre of stopping bullying in schools, but is totally OK with bullying political opponents. That’s worrisome, because it’s quickly escalating, and it could easily spiral into violence, property damage, and even injuries and deaths if it’s not forcefully and unequivocally condemned.
Shamefully, Democrats and the liberal media have been mostly silent, reluctant to criticize those perpetrating these excesses—presumably because they are Democratic voters. Silence effectively becomes assent.
In what amounted to a “tut-tut” (at best), The Washington Post’s liberal editorial page in an unsigned June 24 editorial intoned, “Let the Trump team eat in peace.”
“Those who are insisting that we are in a special moment justifying incivility should think for a moment how many Americans might find their own special moment,” the editorial read, cautioning how the shoe could someday find itself on the other foot. “How hard is it to imagine, for example, people who strongly believe that abortion is murder deciding that judges or other officials who protect abortion rights should not be able to live peaceably with their families?”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in a June 25 tweet blamed the victims while failing to chastise Waters, her fellow California Democrat. “Trump’s daily lack of civility has provoked responses that are predictable but unacceptable,” Pelosi wrote.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., was more forceful, though he didn’t single out Waters by name either.
“I strongly disagree with those who advocate harassing folks if they don’t agree with you,” he said on the Senate floor. “If you disagree with a politician, organize your fellow citizens to action and vote them out of office. But no one should call for the harassment of political opponents. That’s not right. That’s not American.”
On that much at least, we should all be able to agree. But alas, the left’s pro-civility consensus is withering.
That was made disturbingly clear when a group of nearly 200 black female academics, activists, and others wrote a letter July 3 defending Waters’ intemperate behavior and rhetoric, and instead castigating Pelosi and Schumer for having the temerity to call her out on it.
Liberals might point to similar behavior on the right, such as Trump supporters chanting “Lock her up” in reference to Clinton, but that’s a flawed analogy. While that, too, is an affront to political civility, it’s one example versus many.
Sane Democrats surely know that such “in your face” confrontational actions will turn off moderates and independents, which makes their silence all the more puzzling.
If prominent liberals—officeholders and activists alike—won’t send an unequivocal message that such behavior is beyond the pale and call on their allies to cease and desist, it’s hard to see how we get this ugly political genie back in the bottle.