Decades ago, George Will referred to American politics as “a contact sport.” Indeed, the rhetoric from both sides of the political aisle has always been rough. But we have not seen anything that matches the vitriol of today since Vice President Aaron Burr challenged former treasury secretary Alexander Hamilton to a duel in 1804. As evidence, I offer four examples from just the past week. All four – coming from the political left – should frighten every American.
1. Sarah Huckabee Sanders is refused service at a public restaurant
Last week, the White House spokesperson just wanted to take her family out for a quiet dinner near her home in Lexington, Virginia. They sat at a table at the Red Hen restaurant. But within two minutes, their server, Jaike Foley-Schultz, asked the family to leave. The owner did not want them in his restaurant. With incredible grace, Sanders and her family left, without making a scene.
2. Rep. Maxine Waters calls for attacks against Trump supporters.
The Los Angeles Democrat made her outrageous comments at a toy drive at the Wilshire Federal Building on Saturday. Her rage-filled rant called for aggressive attacks on conservatives. “Let’s make sure we show up wherever we have to show up and if you see anybody from that Cabinet (Trump Administration) in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gas 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.”
3. Protesters surround the home of DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.
Protesters swarmed around Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s home Friday. They shouted, “No justice, no sleep” for hours, while playing the cries of immigrant children on loudspeakers. Other DHS employees have reported numerous anonymous death threats, as well.
4. Portland mayor rallies against ICE.
Ted Wheeler is in his second year as mayor of Portland, Oregon. He lambasted the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) in a series of tweets Wednesday, then announced that he would not order city police to break up protests, regardless of how violent they might become. The Democrat sided with protesters, who called for the banishment of the agency altogether.
Of course, there is plenty of blame to go around. We have never had a president so quick-tempered as Donald Trump. His daily tweets certainly stir the pot and anger his political opponents. Media outlets cater to their ideological bases. There is little debate, but lots of screaming.
But this has escalated beyond tweets and over-the-top rhetoric. From one side of the aisle, we see attacks on officials such as Sanders and Nielsen, unbelievable rants from a U.S. Congresswoman, and a large city mayor refusing to break up protests against immigration officials who are simply doing their jobs – no matter how violent those protests may become.
Would a return to the “compassionate conservatism” of George W. Bush help? Perhaps. Would a return to the days when Ted Kennedy and Bob Dole had lunch together every week make things more civil? Maybe. Have things gone too far for that? Probably.
My prayer is that President Trump tamps down the tweets. And my prayer is that elected officials would quit acting like spoiled children who go into a rage when they don’t get the right toy in their Happy Meal.
A country in which people cannot enjoy a quiet meal with their family, have family time at home void of protesters on their lawn, or support the candidate of their choice without being shunned by gas stations and grocery stores – is not the country I grew up in.
Every American should be alarmed.