By Earl Ofari Hutchinson
At a press conference in March 2016, then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump flatly said “it’s very appropriate” for his allies to beat protestors.
That was not said in the heat of the moment. Trump has made a specialty of verbally pummeling anyone who has crossed him in the months since he incited a riot at his press conference.
In almost every case, there has not been a peep of protest from a Republican senator, congressperson or state legislator about it.
Not many Democrats have raised their voices in protest of Trump’s bullying and brutish outbursts that put people in physical danger, either. There was no avalanche of angry editorials from indignant, outraged newspapers and commentators calling on Trump to resign, be censored or apologize.
Then there’s U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, my congresswoman, who simply calls on Trump’s opponents to confront Trump administration officials in public places over his bigoted and destructive policies. The abuse heaped on her for this simple, lawful and age-old call for citizens who disagree with an administration to voice their dissent directly to those officials is puzzling.
Waters did nothing wrong and certainly has no reason to take a word of her admonition to directly protest back. She certainly has nothing to apologize for.
But how do you explain the torrent of abuse heaped on her? I’m not talking about abuse from Trump and the GOP. That’s to be expected.
But abuse from Democrats and almost all the mainstream media? There are two explanations, and both tell ypu much about the dismal shape of politics and politicians and much of the big media.
The first is that Trump has done a masterful job in bullying, cowering, manipulating and poisoning the political stream. It has got far too many Democrats running scared of doing and saying anything that can be construed as “going low” on Trump. Translated it means wrapping their criticism and protests over his outrages in the softest of velvet gloves.
The thinking is that Democrats can beat back the Trump onslaught by playing by the conventional rules of political engagement. The rules are that you engage in polite discourse on the issues, but refrain from anything that can be regarded as hitting back hard on the integrity of the fellow or lady on the other side. This gentleness has gotten the Democrats an almost unprecedented string of losses in elections in dozens of states in the past decade. It has made the Democrats a minority party in the Senate and the House. It paved the way for the Trump ascension and the toxic forces that he represents.
Trump well understands the raw power and emotionalism unleashed by ripping the wraps off political combat and talking tough and mean about Democrats and even wavering Republicans. It cowers the opposition and sends the message “don’t even think about opening your mouth in criticism about me, because you will be called out by name, and it won’t be pretty.” The GOP leaders got the message loud and clear and that’s why it’s now a Trump party.
The media long ago figured out that playing up every silly and idiotic Trump tweet or utterance, and camping at his rallies to give wall-to-wall coverage of them was a goldmine in ratings. That meant more ad dollars. It’s been a nice little tag team.
Trump will say something outrageous or, better yet, bad mouth an opponent and the ratings numbers soar even higher. Trump knows that, media outlets know that and that’s why it continues.
The second reason Waters is such an inviting target for vitriol is she is an outspoken female, black Democrat, who has made no bones that she wants Trump out of office and has been the one Democrat willing to say it the loudest without the requisite political niceties.
This has made a lot of Democrats squirm and squeamish because she’s unwilling to play the polite parlor game of how GOP opponents must be dealt with kid gloves.
The great fear is Waters’ verbal aggression could throw a monkey wrench into the Democrats chances to take back the House in November. Trump again caught the drift of this great fear when he lambasted Waters as the ‘unhinged” face of the Democrats. This plays well with his base, but it may play even better with Democrats who duck for cover from Waters.
Beating back the Trump evil will take a colossal effort at mobilizing, organizing and engaging those disgusted with Trump and the GOP to get to the polls. But it doesn’t mean that you also can’t shout out loud at Trump’s enablers to their face that his and his party’s policies have been a wreck and a ruin for the country.
The right to say that openly and publicly is after all the American way. Waters got it right by making that call. And I strongly applaud my Auntie Max for that.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of the forthcoming “Why Black Lives Do Matter” (Middle Passage Press). He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One and the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.