Democrats' Year of Living Angrily
Some 1.5 million Americans will see in the New Year behind bars, so it’s hardly a travesty of justice that Katherine Rogers, a 62-year-old first-time offender from New Hampshire, got probation last week for misdemeanor assault.
On the other hand, Rogers certainly knows the law: She’s a former local prosecutor and six-term Democratic member of the state legislature. Adding to the incongruity, earlier in 2017 she was named “Humane Legislator of the Year” for her efforts at curbing cruelty to animals.
Rogers’ empathy doesn’t extend all the way to conservatives, however. During a recount after the 2016 election, she was sitting next to a Republican observer named Susan Olsen, a conservative activist known for her staunch support for the Second Amendment. When Olsen asked if the ballots could be moved closer, Rogers punched her in the head.
Olsen believes Rogers was trying to provoke a physical response, to discredit the gun rights movement and disrupt the recount. Judge Kristin Spath wasn’t so sure. She seemed to think Rogers just lost it. Spath accepted a guilty plea, but sentenced the defendant to probation, provided she abides by the law for a year and attends anger management classes in the next 90 days.
What could be a better symbol of the year in politics than Democrats lashing out in blind anger over how events unfolded electorally in 2017? It began before Donald Trump’s inauguration, and continued unabated for 12 months.
January: The Women’s March on Washington was highlighted by pop singer Madonna dropping several “f-bombs” and telling the crowd: “Yes, I’m angry. … Yes, I have thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House!”
When it was her turn at the microphone, actress Ashley Judd compared Trump to Hitler, accused the president of harboring sexual fantasies about his daughter, and compared menstruation (favorably) to Trump’s “thinning hair.”
February: Betsy DeVos, Trump’s choice as secretary of education, was confirmed on a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence. During her confirmation hearings, DeVos was treated shabbily by Democratic senators, including Elizabeth Warren, who refused to shake her hand, and Al Franken, who called her “the most incompetent” Cabinet nominee he’d ever seen. On an earlier appearance on MSNBC, Franken revealed that attacking her was a pre-arranged Democratic strategy aimed at the president. This posturing had its desired effect. All year, DeVos was heckled any time she visited a public school – and plenty of private ones too.
March: When Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer spotted Hilary Califano, the wife of former Democratic Party wise man Joseph A. Califano Jr., at upscale Italian restaurant Sette Mezzo, he didn’t inquire about the pasta. He made a scene.
“She voted for Trump!” he shouted, according to Mrs. Califano. “How could you vote for Trump? He’s a liar!”
April: Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote that spring is when a young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of love, but for middle-aged Democrats spring was when their minds turned to obscenities. The Democratic National Committee all but designated itself the Profanity Party. After Chairman Tom Perez began using a common potty word in speeches, the DNC put it on T-shirts. “Tom is angry,” explained spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa, “and he’s angry because Donald Trump continues to stick it to the American people.”
Perez wasn’t alone. New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand used the f-word three times in a single interview, while Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke began using foul language in speeches and interviews.
The obvious paradox is that one of the traits liberals say they most detest about Trump is his crudeness. “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster,” philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once warned in writing about good and evil. “And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.”
May: After his son with born with a heart defect, Jimmy Kimmel began his late-night crusade against the GOP health care plan, which he basically said would kill less fortunate children. Comedian Kathy Griffin, a Democratic donor and Al Franken pal, was photographed holding a grisly and realistic-looking prop: the severed head of President Trump.
“Even their comedians are angry and enraged,” noted Rush Limbaugh, who needled the Democratic Party as the “largest hate group” in the country.
June: After a Bernie Sanders devotee opened fire at a baseball diamond where Republican members of Congress were practicing, a shocking number of liberal activists took to social media to assert that grievously wounded Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise got what he deserved. Sanders decried the violence, but a week later was urging his supporters to continue their “political revolution” and to “act in an unprecedented way.”
August: The White House response to the violence at a Charlottesville rally of racists revealed to Democrats not that Trump was tone-deaf or in over his head as president, but rather that his administration was staffed by white supremacists. Yes, that phrase again, which also cropped up repeatedly among Democrats and in the media in September after Trump’s Twitter feud with San Juan’s mayor and his verbal attack on NFL players who sit during the national anthem.
In October, when Trump called the widow of fallen Special Forces soldier La David Johnson, Florida Congresswoman Frederica Wilson listened in on the call and then told the press that Trump had botched it by not remembering the soldier’s name and by saying that “he knew what he signed up for.” The narrative was, yet again, racism (Johnson was black) and sexism, of course, and that the commander-in-chief had picked another fight with a Gold Star family.
In November, Democratic anger became a circular firing squad when Donna Brazile told fellow party members to “go to hell” after they objected to her unflattering revelations about the DNC. In December, the president was back in opponents’ gunsights as the tax bill passed Congress.
Did Trump bring a lot of this on himself? Undoubtedly. As progressive journalist Katha Pollitt suggested in a year-end essay, it’s nobody’s fault but Trump’s if, for example, he cannot “make a sympathy call sound sympathetic.” And if the opprobrium was directed only at the 45th U.S. president, 2017 wouldn’t have been such an ordeal. But progressives’ anger is much broader than that.
“The main difference is that I hate people now,” Pollitt also wrote. “Well, not all people, of course. Just people who voted for Trump.”
That’s a lot of people, 62 million of them, and a lot of hate to be directing at your fellow Americans. There’s a better way, which liberals once knew. Some still do. Madonna reminded us of it back in January. Her notorious “blow up the White House” riff -- Trump-like in its shock value -- was a preamble to a more compassionate point.
“Yes, I’m outraged,” she said that day. “But I know that this won’t change anything. We can’t fall into despair. As the poet W.H. Auden once wrote on the eve of World War II, we must love one another or die. I choose love. Are you with me? Say this with me: We choose love. We choose love. We choose love.”
That’s more like it. Happy New Year, everyone.