Sarah Sanders’s Red Hen moment shows mob, media mentality

Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s booting from a Virginia restaurant is just a symptom of a much wider illness of left-wing intolerance. It’s part of a growing pattern of intimidation and mob scenes against Republican officials. Grass-roots activists share in the blame, of course, but the largest single accelerant is the mainstream media.

The rinse and repeat cycle of anti-Trump outrage blared on nearly every news network, magazine and newspaper has fomented an increasingly brazen brand of radical ideas turning into radical action.

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Last week was a turning point. And certainly not in a good way for anyone — the administration, the media, Republicans or Democrats.

 

The headlines and Twitter feeds have become one recycled (and often artificial) tempest outrage after another. Biased anchors and editorial rooms create a bellows effect of turning isolated incidents or policies of years prior into white-hot cauldrons of outrage. The over-the-top kabuki-theater-type “coverage” of family separations at the border acts more as undisguised activism than objective reporting. If House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiCoronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame On The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS Top Democrats say postmaster confirmed changes to mail service amid delays MORE (D-Calif.) handed a check to a TV anchor on set, it would be less subtle.

Every new affront ratchets up the already-tense leftist base and riles up Republican RINOs. Except the fury doesn’t match the underlying issues. The Trump border policy, coupled with enforcement of provisions dating back to George W. Bush, has been willfully extrapolated to extremes by the people who should be refereeing political debate. Instead, we have, for example, a deceptive (to put it charitably) TIME Magazine cover and mental gymnastics to hide President Obama’s own family separations and child cages, all funneling red meat (or a non-cruelty tofu substitute) to the Resistance base.

This miscarriage of responsibility has — and will have — real-world ramifications.

The maelstrom reached a crescendo Thursday due to Melania TrumpMelania TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate GOP, House Democrats begin battle over trillion bill Melania Trump announces plans to renovate White House Rose Garden Trump tweets photo of himself wearing a mask MORE’s jacket. One newspaper headline declared her an “Agent of Coat Chaos.” Her sin? Wearing an off-the-shelf jacket with the words “I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?” while boarding a plane to Texas.

Her trip to comfort children was overshadowed by her jacket. Her jacket.

She didn’t even wear the article of clothing while meeting with weeping children or with government officials. She was snapped wearing it while boarding a plane. Many on the left rightly dismissed criticism of Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaMichelle Obama on depression: 'I'm doing just fine' Young minority voters show overwhelming support for Biden: poll Michelle Obama says she is managing 'low-grade depression' MORE’s wardrobe — and they should stand up for this first lady’s agency to wear what she wants, when she wants to.

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There are so many other things our news media can focus on, much of it positive. The unemployment rate matches the lowest level in 50 years. Black unemployment is at the lowest level in recorded history. GDP growth may now be at 4 percent. North Korea is removing anti-U.S. propaganda. It’s not all sunshine and lollipops, but stepping out the door into the real world reveals a much rosier picture than the television portrays.

Simply put, the legacy media has destroyed much of the middle ground for debate. They’re playing brinkmanship with President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says his faith is 'bedrock foundation of my life' after Trump claim Coronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Ohio governor tests negative in second coronavirus test MORE, each stacking another joker on an impossibly high house of cards. Now, with the death of Charles Krauthammer and the sidelining of mainstream Republican thinkers from polite society, the issue is only getting worse.

In selling the Iran Deal with lies, President Obama’s deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, Ben Rhodes, famously said afterward: “The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.” In the age of Trump, this is happening writ-large.

Conservatives aren’t perfect. And the owner of The Red Hen had the legal right to refuse service to Sanders. However, this sort of chaotic behavior is now mainstream only on the left: Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioPessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire McConnell: Wearing a mask is 'single most significant thing' to fight pandemic McConnell goes hands-off on coronavirus relief bill MORE (R-Fla.) was shouted down in Florida; Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenTrump's acting ICE chief to leave post Trump's fight with city leaders escalates Neo-Nazi pleads guilty to 'swatting' Black church, Cabinet official, journalists MORE was howled at as she ate in a restaurant (with bonus outrage points that anyone linked to Trump would eat at a Mexican joint); Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi was heckled while trying to watch a documentary on Mr. Rogers. (Perhaps the mob didn’t get the whole point of Mr. Rogers.)

Rep. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersBill from Warren, Gillibrand and Waters would make Fed fight economic racial inequalities Waters rips Trump, GOP over mail-in ballots: 'They'll lie, cheat and steal to stay in power' CDC director says he wasn't involved in decision to reroute COVID-19 hospitalization data MORE (D-Calif.) poured gasoline on the fire, calling for more. A member of Congress playing a wink-and-nod game with mob violence lends a dangerous legitimacy to an already-tenuous situation.

This process of righteous outrage is not sustainable. In many ways it reminds me of the growing storm of surprise after the 2016 election, pussy hat protests and faux civil disobedience last summer that culminated in the attempted assassination of Republican congressmen in Washington and the severe wounding of Rep. Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseRepublicans fear disaster in November Gaetz set to endorse primary opponent of fellow Florida GOP lawmaker Hillicon Valley: Trump backs potential Microsoft, TikTok deal, sets September deadline | House Republicans request classified TikTok briefing | Facebook labels manipulated Pelosi video MORE (La.).

There is room for discussion, even still. Congressional Republicans have been surprisingly flexible in allowing ideas to the floor this term, and I hope Democrats take them up on the offer. The debate belongs in conference halls, meetings, respectful discussions. It shouldn’t take place scoring imaginary virtue points by kicking out your political opponents — left or right — from your establishment.

It’s time for a mutual de-escalation before things get worse. The media can, and should, take a leading role toward reconciliation. Our differences are far smaller than what we have in common. Our shared goals, heritage and future wait in front of us. Fortunately, we have a political system that allows us to do so.

Let’s do so, even when we disagree. In fact, let’s do so especially when we disagree.

Kristin Tate is the author of the new book, "How Do I Tax Thee?: The Field Guide to the Great American Rip-Off." Follow her on Twitter @KristinBTate.