While she may not be the imminent existential threat to America that some on the far-right claim her to be, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) is a very real danger to important segments of American society.
In particular, Waters’s rabid extremism and recent calls for pseudo-violence, pose a concrete threat to public safety personnel and others who serve the public in her own high-crime congressional district and elsewhere across the country.
In the broad sense, the congresswoman’s self-proclaimed duty to stalk, harass, and intimidate her enemies represents a complete and utter repudiation of the social contract that makes the rule of law possible. And, without it, America qua America cannot long survive.
The embrace of mob rule as articulated by the octogenarian congresswoman represents a philosophical rejection of civility and the very rule of law on which our country was founded. But in a more immediate and personal sense, her vitriolic call to harass and “get in the face” of any public servant with whom one might disagree on policy or actions, does more than poison the public policy arena in ways that rend the fabric of a civil society; it encourages and empowers those who incline toward violence to act.
It is this consequence of Waters’s rantings that pose a clear, present, immediate, and potentially deadly danger to police and other public safety officials. With public tempers already at a height unimaginable less than one generation ago, the verbal match struck by Waters’s uncivil call-to-arms easily becomes the spark flaring into deadly action.
Just days ago, in Harris County, Texas, someone with hate in their heart sought to poison sheriff officers with flyers laced with fentanyl; a high-potency opioid that can be absorbed through the skin if touched unwittingly. In California, an individual with similar hatred for public safety officials, fatally shot a firefighter working at the scene of an apparently purposefully-set fire at a retirement home.
These are neither hypothetical nor isolated incidences. And they are perpetrated by individuals of the sort open to encouragement by officials with a public microphone with which to exhort them, like a Maxine Waters. The Californian congresswoman’s rants are far different from those of a Rosanne Barr or a Robert de Niro. Tweets or speeches exhibiting a racial or political animus are one thing; and they do their part to deteriorate the fabric of civil public discourse.
That discord is taken to a far higher and more dangerous level, however, when it is not Tweets or words by a TV or movie actor, but calls for action, including violent acts, by those in the public. One can slough off the despicable words of a second-rate actor like Peter Fonda; but not as easily calls for action by a sitting member of Congress. People and groups listen to, heed, and act upon such words.
When mobs — not civil discourse or judicial process — decide what speech is acceptable, what public policies are worthy of support, or when police should be permitted to take action to halt criminal activity, then we have arrived tragically at that dark precipice evoked in 1964 by Ronald Reagan in describing the United States as the “last best hope of man on earth.” The key difference between 1964 and 2018 is that the threat to freedom in American then was posed by an enemy without; today it is the enemy within. Even worse, that enemy within is not only Hollywood elites, Antifa anarchists and deranged individuals, but includes the very individuals supposed to stand as a bulwark against anarchy and chaos – members of the United States Congress.
The America painted in Waters’s warped vision of public action is one where it is not voters, democratically elected officials, trained police, learned judges, or even the Constitution that determine the law; but rather which group is bold enough to make the most noise, exert the most intimidation, and rouse sufficient rabble to force its goals on others.
It is a recipe for only one thing: chaos. And for the individual public safety official daring to stand against it, perform their sworn duty, and do their best to serve and protect, it is a red flag being waved in their face. While Waters may claim her calls to harass and intimidate are not explicit calls for violence; the real consequences of such rhetoric tell a different story. Just ask one of Waters’s colleagues, Steve Scalise, who last summer was gravely wounded at a baseball practice by a gunman angered at the congressman’s political affiliation.
Bob Barr is president and CEO of the Law Enforcement Education Foundation (LEEF). From 1995-2003, he represented Georgia’s Seventh Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.