One year ago the Militant wrote, “The unrelenting, monthslong crusade by liberals in the Democratic Party, the middle-class left and the media to invalidate or reverse the outcome of the 2016 election had spawned an attempt to assassinate Republican members of Congress.”
The Socialist Workers Party was a lone voice among those who say they speak for working people. The bloody shooting spree — in which House Republican Whip Steve Scalise was critically injured by James Hodgkinson, a Bernie Sanders backer — was a product of liberals’ frenzy against what they deemed the “wrong” candidate being elected, Donald Trump not Hillary Clinton.
“The shooter’s goal was to kill as many Republican congressmen on the ballfield as possible,” SWP National Secretary Jack Barnes said at the party’s 2017 Active Workers Conference. He described how middle-class layers waging “resistance” against the new president fear workers who voted for Trump, “hoping he marked a change from what they faced under George W. Bush and Barack Obama,” as well as workers who held their noses and voted for Clinton or who simply stayed home.
Today like-minded forces are calling on followers to organize mob harassment of Trump officials. “Drive them from public life!” they say. The owner of the Red Hen, a Virginia restaurant, won plaudits from the liberal media for forcing White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, out of the building. In following days Kirstjen Nielsen, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, was set upon at a Washington restaurant and again outside her home. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, a Trump supporter, was screamed at and harried at a movie theater. All these targets were women.
Striking a blow against both freedom of speech and association, Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters urges the president’s opponents to go after administration officials. “In a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd” and “you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere,” she told a California rally. “We can’t wait to the next election.”
Prior to his attempted killing spree in June 2017, the shooter wrote, “It’s time to destroy Trump.” It’s worth noting that after Scalise criticized Waters’ call this week, he was barraged with tweets expressing regrets he’d survived.
Some top Democrats, such as Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, have spoken out against the harassment drive. They’re afraid it will backfire and lose votes for Democrats in 2018 and 2020.
Such concerns are well taken given the ground the Trump administration is winning for the U.S. rulers through steps toward an agreement in Korea, a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the current Mideast trip seeking progress toward an Israel/Palestine accord. Though far from why the White House is taking these steps, their outcome can be good for working people in the U.S. and the world over.
The anti-Trump “resistance,” as Barnes said, takes aim at what they consider his “base” among workers. That’s why liberals couple harassment of Trump officials with moves to weaken political rights wrested from the rulers in blood. These include free speech, the right to bear arms, protection from intrusive cop searches and seizure, the right not to be forced to testify against ourselves, and more.
Calls for political harassment are dangerous to the working class, African-Americans, women, immigrants and the oppressed. They can unleash violent assaults, as they did last year. They threaten our rights and political space for civil debate, to organize and to act. But that’s exactly what the working class needs — more and more — as we seek ways to fight effectively against attacks on our class produced by the deepening economic, political and moral crisis of the capitalist rulers.