On Tuesday, nearly 200 black leaders — mostly women, but including the Rev. Al Sharpton — signed a letter attacking Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for refusing to support Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) in her call for supporters to constantly harass officials in the Trump administration.
“We, the undersigned, write to express our full support for Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who has recently been unjustly attacked by Republicans and Democratic Party leadership for speaking truth to power,” the signatories wrote.
They declared that Waters is an inspiration. “For Black women, who are the most loyal base of the Democratic Party and the Progressive Movement, Congresswoman waters is our shero [sic],” they wrote.
How did Waters inspire them? Late last month, she called for protesters to constantly harass members of President Donald Trump’s cabinet. “If you see anybody from that cabinet in a restaurant, at a department store, at a gasoline station, you get you and you create a crowd,” Waters declared. “And you push back on them, and you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.”
Waters championed reports of “members of this cabinet that are being booed out of restaurants, who have protesters taking up at their house.” She praised protesters for chanting, “No peace! No sleep!”
When President Trump accused her of calling for “harm to my supporters,” Waters shot back, insisting she only supported “peaceful protest.”
“I did not call for harm for anybody. The president lied again,” the congresswoman told MSNBC. While Waters did not advocate for violence against Trump cabinet members, she did urge protesters to harass them and deny them sleep and peace — which certainly constitutes harm, as Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders can tell you.
This call for harm has turned Waters into a celebrity among liberals, according to the black leaders who signed the letter this week.
“Millennials of every race and creed revere Congresswoman Waters, whom they affectionately refer to as ‘Auntie Maxine.’ She has been a foremost catalyst in encouraging a new generation to embrace the Democratic Party as the party that shares their values and speaks to the issues they care about most,” the black leaders added. “Not supporting Congresswoman Waters hurts the party and threatens to erode an opportunity to continue to grow the Democratic Party with young leaders and voters.”
The signatories went even further, however. “Disparaging or failing to support Congresswoman Waters is an affront to her and Black women across the country and telegraphs a message that the Democratic Party can ill afford: that it does not respect Black women’s leadership and political power and discounts the impact of Black women and millennial voters,” they wrote.
So how did Schumer and Pelosi carry out this “affront to Black women”? They refused to celebrate the incivility of harassing Trump officials outside their workplaces.
“No one should call for the harassment of political opponents,” Schumer declared last month. “That’s not right. That’s not American.”
Pelosi’s response proved more indirect. “In the crucial months ahead, we must strive to make America beautiful again,” she tweeted with a link to Waters’ remarks. “Trump’s daily lack of civility has provoked responses that are predictable but unacceptable.”
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
After the letter from black leaders, the Democrat leader changed her tune. “Congresswoman Maxine Waters is a valued leader whose passionate call for family reunification should be heard without any threats to her safety,” Pelosi said in a statement to POLITICO Wednesday.
“Donald Trump has sullied the bully pulpit with reckless disregard for the safety of others,” the Democrat leader added. “He should stop his attacks on Congresswoman Waters and all Members of Congress, the free press, and all Americans who have the right and the responsibility to speak their minds.”
Even so, Pelosi did not apologize for suggesting Waters’ remarks made America less “beautiful.” The black leaders declared their belief that “Congresswoman Waters is owed an apology for your public comments insinuating that she is ‘uncivil’ and ‘un- American’ for challenging the Trump Administration.”
Pelosi should not cave to these demands. Waters did indeed make uncivil comments. Americans should not harass Trump administration officials in their everyday lives. Trump has been far from perfect, but calls to deny “peace” and “sleep” from members of his cabinet are reprehensible.
Last week, Waters received a death threat. This too is reprehensible. Americans need to return to civility, rather than tearing one another apart.
Some have denounced the call for civility, calling it a form of white patriarchal oppression. Perhaps these black leaders use this to justify championing Waters’ calls for constant harassment.
The black leaders who defended Waters should be ashamed of themselves, and if Democrats do indeed double down on incivility, it should damage their chances in November.