OPINION — Some things are missing in American politics. Let’s see. There’s no civility. There’s no statesmanship. There’s little or no concern for the electorate. No sense of duty.
Ever since Donald Trump was elected president and California’s Maxine Waters told her supporters to confront cabinet members and staffers to harass them and tell them they were not welcome in Washington. She told them to harass them wherever they found them.
And so they did exactly that, to members of the House, members of the president’s staff, to members of the Senate, to Vice President Pence and his family. They did it in theaters, in restaurants and at their homes. Is there really any question why it is difficult to find quality people to run for public office?
This new tolerance of angry, often creepy, dissent is what led to a mob that breeched the United States Capitol. Incivility is not limited to one party, obviously. Neither is it limited to Washington, D.C.
This new incivility has trickled down all the way to local school boards and town halls. Social media is full of videos of local meetings that have turned into Donnybrooks of angry torch-bearing citizens bent on having their moments at a podium harassing people with whom they disagree.
Who would volunteer to subject themselves and their families to the kind of abuse we’re seeing today? The First Amendment guarantees its citizens the right to peacefully assemble and to “petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
What the Constitution does not guarantee is the right to intimidate and harass anyone. When someone tells a public official “we know where you live,” that’s not a petition for a redress of grievances. That’s a threat.
Recently, Democrats turned on their own. Sen. Kirsten Sinema, (D-Ariz.) and Sen. Joe Manchin, (D-W. Va.). The two are the only Democrat holdouts on President Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion so-called “human infrastructure” bill. Both have said they will help pass a bi-partisan infrastructure bill, but they won’t vote for the $3.5 trillion budget bill because it is simply too expensive and its proponents have not adequately addressed how in the world they intend to pay for it without wrecking the American economy.
What is their reward for integrity? Disdain from their party. Both senators are pretty liberal. Both want the social programs outlined in the “human infrastructure” bill. But they recognize that it is simply too expensive and both have said they are willing to negotiate a less expensive deal with both parties.
That’s not good enough. Members of their own party have resorted to Waters’ tactics to try to get them both to change their minds. And both have said that won’t happen.
Manchin and his family were accosted on their boat by kayak rowing citizens set on intimidation and harassment. And Sinema was accosted on an airplane, in an Arizona State University classroom where she was lecturing and ultimately she followed her into a restroom while recording their rants on cell phones.
In Arizona, video recording someone in a restroom without his or her consent is a felony, which is as it should be. And, what was our president’s reaction to the harassment of a Senator from his party by members of his party? He said it was inappropriate, but “It happens to everybody. It’s part of the process.”
Abhorrent behavior is not part of the process. It doesn’t happen to everybody. And, it brings shame on the entire country. Democrats in Arizona and West Virginia elected Sinema and Manchin. They should be proud of senators who insist on doing what they believe is the right thing, in spite of harassing creeps trying to intimidate them into selling their souls.
Michael Sanborn writes from Rapid City.