Discrimination is the new norm for ‘wrong’ political views
A gay Cincinnati man — a lifelong Democrat living with HIV/AIDS — recently tweeted that a local business refused his request to cater an event.
The story harkens to private bakers in Colorado who, citing religious beliefs, refused to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple in 2012. (Ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that the bakers were within their rights.) News of the bakery incident sparked outrage and was plastered on the news off and on for years.
But judging from the recent past, the reported refusal of a Cincinnati business to serve a gay man is unlikely to prompt across-the-board national outrage for one reason: The man is a supporter of President Trump. He says that was the reason given for why he was rejected as a customer.
The gay Trump supporter is named Scott Ford and he discussed the incident with me over the phone. He says he planned an event for 20-30 people. When the owner of the business — where he says he’d been “a loyal customer for two years” — asked what the event was, Ford told her it was a “pro-Trump event to highlight the president’s accomplishments.”
“She threw her hands up in the air and said, ‘No, as badly as I need the money, I’m not doing this,’” Ford told me. “It blew up into an argument in a matter of seconds. I said ‘This is a great president I’m supporting as a Democrat.’ I was disappointed and shocked.”
Ford’s account raises an interesting point: Are people with certain political beliefs becoming America’s new discriminated class?
The question cuts both ways. Some Democrats demonize “all” Republicans. Some Republicans demonize “all” liberals. Some Democrats and Republicans demonize “all” Trump supporters. Most of the vitriol occurs on the news and social media. But some of the hateful rhetoric and behavior bleeds over into real life.
In general, hateful speech and opinions are protected under the Constitution, except to the extent they are deemed to incite violence or otherwise become illegal. But, at the same time, civilized society tends to frown upon it. Just as the Colorado bakers were ruled to be within their constitutional rights, a groundswell of public opinion said they nonetheless were morally wrong.
The charged political attacks that dominate so much of the news and social media landscape have, on occasion, arguably led to violence. But even when they fall short of that, something important seems to be lost in rational discussion when a person or group of people unfairly stereotype(s) others based on political choices.
“All’s fair,” you may reply. “Anyone who is a (fill-in-the-blank political membership) is obviously endorsing (fill-in-the-blank objectionable practices and beliefs).”
Yet, cerebrally, we know that isn’t the case. Each political party in America contains people with a hodgepodge of beliefs. Their given positions on a topic may shift slightly — or drastically — from year to year or day to day. I think very few of us have a thick bold line on every given topic that falls neatly into the box of a chosen political party or figure.
And this may be hard to swallow for those deeply embedded in a particular political philosophy, but I think most people — whatever their choices — simply want what’s best for themselves, their families and their country. They differ on what that means and the best way to get there.
Maybe the category of “political beliefs” isn’t about to join the so-called classes in our society protected from certain forms of discrimination — race, color, religion, sex, disability, family status or nationality. But we might be a more civilized society, and our conversations more productive, if we began seriously frowning on the habit of judging others based on their allegiance to the Republican Party, Democrats, or Trump.
Sharyl Attkisson (@SharylAttkisson) is an Emmy Award-winning investigative journalist, author of The New York Times best-sellers “The Smear” and “Stonewalled,” and host of Sinclair’s Sunday TV program, “Full Measure.”