Nearly exactly a year after a gunman brutally gunned down House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) because the congressman is a Republican, we now have a Democratic sitting member of Congress whipping up mobs against the Republican White House. Our country deserves and must do better so we can heal and unify.
Scalise was nearly assassinated in a shooting at a congressional baseball practice last June, and on Sunday a reckless tirade from Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) sought to marginalize and dehumanize Trump officials: “If you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station,” Waters shouted from a megaphone, “you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them, and you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.”
As Meghan McCain pointed out in response to Waters, it appears that many progressives have forgotten the wise words of Michelle Obama from the 2016 presidential campaign that “when they go low, we go high.”
Waters was speaking out against the Trump administration’s policies on immigration but ignored that children were detained in federal custody under very similar physical conditions under both Trump’s and Obama’s administrations. Waters made no similar display of outrage in 2014 under the Obama White House.
Certainly there are voices on the Right saying terrible things also–Corey Lewandowski’s recent callous remarks about a child with Down Syndrome, for example–and we can’t ignore or downplay the danger of this rhetoric. It was wrong of candidate Trump to rile up his rallies with physically-explosive language, and it was wrong of Republican MSNBC host Nicolle Wallace to suggest White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders should be choked.
Yet in this most recent verbal spat, Waters ignores that President Trump rose to victory in large part due to the economic concerns of working-class Americans, many of whom saw their wages and quality of life stagnate due to high tax burdens and competition from low-skilled, illegal immigrants. Rather than engage in a substantive debate around the macroeconomic ramifications of illegal immigration, Waters instead chooses to call for bullying and physical intimidation. This is a complete rejection of the American democratic ideal of respectful and robust policy debate.
Meanwhile, for Americans struggling on the lower end of the economic spectrum, as The Wall Street Journal reports, under the Trump administration’s watch, the “University of Michigan’s consumer-sentiment index, confidence among households in the bottom third income tier has risen 11.4 points since February, an IHS Markit analysis of sentiment figures shows. Meanwhile, sentiment among Americans in the highest third of incomes has fallen more than eight points.” Vulnerable Americans Waters claims to champion are finally able to lift up their head just a bit higher right now in the Trump economy.
It seems that today’s Democratic Party believes the American Dream should apply to every illegal immigrant, even as American citizens and legal immigrants struggle to make their own ends meet and are starting to see their lives improve due to Republican respect for U.S. sovereignty and consent of the governed.
Progressive critics of President Trump’s immigration stance often throw the word “racist” against him, yet they don’t seem to listen to the many Latino immigrants and immigrants of other ethnic backgrounds who chose to enter the United States legally rather than illegally–in many cases waiting for many years–and share Trump’s criticism of the influx of illegal immigrants crossing the border.
Through rhetoric like Waters’, the Left risks driving Trump voters further into the President’s arms rather than their intended goal–to win back the White House. The Left has forgotten the cavernous difference between language meant to express and to persuade. They would rather provoke anger among themselves than convert new believers to their cause.
The only path forward beyond this seemingly ubiquitous division is to remember the immortal words of our Constitution’s Preamble: that our government was created “to form a more perfect Union.” Will we ever be perfect? The human condition suggests otherwise. But our American Experiment has only worked because we’ve constantly sought to walk toward that destination. We’ve survived wars–both foreign and domestic, animated by poisonous ideologies–and economic depression to build a prosperous and generous superpower. We need leaders like Waters to remember our miraculous story and rewrite the rhetorical script away from violence toward empathy and substance.
Carrie Sheffield is the founder of Bold. She is passionate about storytelling to empower and connect others. A founding POLITICO reporter, Carrie contributed on political economy at Forbes and wrote editorials for The Washington Times. After earning a master’s in public policy from Harvard University, she managed credit risk at Goldman Sachs and researched for American Enterprise Institute scholar Edward Conard. She earned a B.A. in communications at Brigham Young University and completed a Fulbright fellowship in Berlin.