June 25, 2018
At a restaurant in rural Virginia, liberals are ordering something to go: conservatives! For members of the Trump leadership team, there's no such thing as eating out in peace -- or, in the case of Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, eating at all. After a week of escalating tensions over immigration, the face of the White House's PR became the latest victim of the Left's "tolerance."
Her table had barely touched their cheese boards when the owner approached Sanders and asked to speak with her privately. They walked out to the patio where Sarah was informed that she wasn't welcome at the Red Hen restaurant. "I'd like to ask you to leave," Stephanie Wilkerson told Sanders. Everyone else at the table would be welcome to stay, she was told. Without hesitating, Sarah said simply, "That's fine. I'll go." Unfortunately for Sanders, who's endured more than her share of harassment on the job, this is the treatment she and other members of the administration come to expect. In the end, she tweeted, Wilkerson's actions, "say far more about her than about me. I always do my best to treat people, including those I disagree with, respectfully and will continue to do so."
A few days earlier, Americans watched in amazement as protestors screamed at Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Neilsen at a restaurant in D.C. (This was after her home had already been surrounded by a mob of angry Trump opponents shouting "No justice, no sleep!") White House advisor Stephen Miller was another target, accosted by a group of unhinged liberals yelling, "Facist!" while he tried to eat. Florida's Attorney General Pam Bondi, who isn't even an administration official, had to rush away from a movie screening when a confrontation outside got too heated. The threat of real violence is something every conservative is starting to take seriously.
House Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) watched in astonishment as Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters (Calif.) tried to stoke the fire. "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," she said to the horror of even her own party. Worried that things could escalate, Scalise spokesman Lauren Fine reminded America what happens when debates turn vicious. "Whip Scalise knows firsthand the dangerous consequences that can result from making political differences personal and vitriolic," she said. "Harassment is never an acceptable method of disagreement."
Even the Washington Post's editorial board urged caution in a piece called, "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. 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? Down that road lies a world in which only the most zealous sign up for public service. That benefits no one."
Some on the Left try to justify driving conservatives from public spaces by saying it's the same as Christian bakers and florists, but the only ones denying service to people are liberals! Unlike the Red Hen's owner, Christians Jack Phillips, Melissa Klein, and Barronelle Stutzman all offered to sell their customers anything in the store. They only objected to creating custom cakes for a wedding ceremony that's they hold sacred. Yet somehow, it's okay for the side that tosses Trump supporters from bars and White House employees out of restaurants to force Christians – under penalty of law -- to do what they will not? If liberals want to hurt themselves by turning away customers, that's their choice. But let's not conflate the two.
Meanwhile, the political costs of these kinds of intimidation tactics are steep. If all of this public shame and humiliation is meant to get people to disconnect and disassociate from the president's policies, it's not working. Trump's supporters, the New York Times's Jeremy Peters warns, are only digging in deeper. There is, he points out, a very real "backlash to the backlash" of Trump. And it's not just rallying conservatives – but people on the fence too.
"I started to go out and talk to people about it," he tells a Slate reporter. "This almost Silent Majority... is happening right now where you have a lot of Republicans who feel like the Left and the media are badly overacting to the Trump administration and holding him to an unfair standard that is now so routine and so omnipresent that they are outraged by the outrage." Even the voters who aren't even necessarily fans of the president are "tired of the constant attacks leveled against him by both Democrats and the media, which have led them to feel defensive of themselves and Trump."
If the president's opponents think they can mob, heckle, and harass their way to power, they're about to be disappointed. The president's approval rating is the highest it's ever been in the face of these attacks -- and climbing. Maybe more Americans are starting to realize what the country would look like if the bullies take over (and wondering if they'll ever get to eat out if they do!).
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.