Is this a case of sincere regret, fear of asymmetrical application, or privilege-splaining? I’ll bet that Maxine Waters takes Door Number 3 in her response to Nancy Pelosi’s slap at Waters’ suggestion that Donald Trump’s opponents harass White House employees whenever out in public. Pelosi was careful to blame Trump for the “lack of civility,” but it’s nonetheless a shot across Waters’ bow:
Nancy Pelosi rebuked fellow Democrat Rep. Maxine Waters on Monday for urging her supporters to confront Trump administration officials in their day-to-day lives.
The House Democratic leader’s censure of her colleague highlights the difficult choices Democratic leaders face as they try to leverage energized opposition to the Trump administration and take a House majority in November’s midterm elections. Pelosi has also refused to back efforts by Waters and others to impeach President Donald Trump, calling the push “divisive.”
In the crucial months ahead, we must strive to make America beautiful again. Trump’s daily lack of civility has provoked responses that are predictable but unacceptable. As we go forward, we must conduct elections in a way that achieves unity from sea to shining sea. https://t.co/vlpqOBLK4R
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) June 25, 2018
The man himself weighed in on the issue within the last hour:
Clearly that falls within the “asymmetrical response” category, about which Jazz wrote earlier today. Already people are condemning it as a threat, but it’s a response in kind to another elected official, who explicitly endorsed incivility that had already occurred and encouraged more of it. It’s not exactly a threat to warn that rewriting the customs of civility might end up backfiring on those who demand such change, and it’s also difficult to put this on Trump when Waters spoke up first.
How off the mark is this among Democrats as a whole? The Washington Post reports that “some moderates and Democrats” have pushed back on Waters, but the article only cites one other Democrat than Pelosi that pushed back in public:
Without mentioning Waters, David Axelrod, former president Barack Obama’s onetime chief strategist, wrote that he was “kind of amazed and appalled by the number of folks on the Left who applauded” Sanders’s expulsion from a restaurant.
That’s a little unfair to Axelrod, who went out of his way to call out Waters by name earlier today:
Couldn’t disagree more with @MaxineWaters. Disgusted with this admin’s policies? Organize, donate, volunteer, VOTE! Rousting Cabinet members from restaurants is an empty and, ultimately, counter-productive gesture that won’t change a thing.
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) June 25, 2018
Axelrod and Pelosi aside, there doesn’t appear to be much of a backlash among Democrats, at least not yet. (Twitchy notes the expressions of support, however.) There doesn’t appear to be a lot of handwringing in the media either, at least not yet. Most of the coverage has been of the “Republicans pounce” variety rather than on the merits and demerits of Waters’ call for harassment of public officials.
There’s hypocrisy on both sides of this issue. Donald Trump made incivility a political winner in the presidential election, and regularly uses his Twitter feed to broadcast insults and derisive nicknames directed at his opponents, and sometimes even his political allies. On the other hand, progressives have made a point of running people out of business for failing to adhere to their public orthodoxy. Anyone recall the story of Brendan Eich and Mozilla, for instance? Civility has been declining for a number of years; Trump isn’t the cause of it, he’s one of the outcomes. So too is Maxine Waters, for that matter, and the celebrities jumping on her bandwagon.
Regardless of her motives, Pelosi’s right, as is Axelrod and the Republicans who did go on the record over the last few days. There is enough blame to share for all of this, and the eventual outcome will be a parallel of F.A. Hayek’s warnings in The Road to Serfdom; the only people who will be willing to work for administrations in the future will be those who are so thick-skinned as to be impervious to harassment … and criticism, and oversight, and accountability. We’ll enable our governing class to be as autocratic and insensitive as they like, and man, will they like it.
Be careful what you wish for, indeed.