Los Angeles — At a rally here on June 24, U.S. Congressperson Maxine Waters came out hard against the vicious Trump “zero tolerance” policy on immigration, and specifically against taking children — often infants — from their families.
Waters also spoke in favor of making officials of the disgusting right-wing administration uncomfortable in public. She was responding to White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders being asked to leave a Virginia restaurant by the owner and workers, and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen being driven out of a Mexican restaurant by protesters.
Rep. Waters’ words netted her a vile, racist and threatening response from Trump himself. Over the next several days her office received hundreds of threatening email and phone messages. Among these was a death threat considered so serious that Waters’ speaking engagements in Texas and Alabama had to be canceled.
Rep. Waters has served 14 consecutive terms in the U.S. Congress. Since 2013 she has represented a large portion of South Central Los Angeles, historically an African-American and more recently a Latinx area of LA.
Democratic Party leaders tout it as the “party of the people.” One would think they would have taken this opportunity to support her and connect to the thousands of voters who admire Maxine Waters for her principled positions against U.S. wars, her impassioned fights for the rights of the oppressed and now her courage in standing up to the latest Trump/Sessions crimes against migrants.
But the opposite happened, revealing the true character of the Democratic Party leadership. Nancy Pelosi, Charles Schumer and, yes, Bernie Sanders, immediately called for “unity and civility” in dealing with Trump and his right-wing coterie.
Pelosi, the powerful House minority leader, whose wealth ranks her among the top one-tenth of 1% of the U.S. population, tweeted: “As we go forward, we must conduct elections in a way that achieves unity from sea to shining sea.”
Schumer, the Senate minority leader, said of Maxine Waters’ having thrown down the gauntlet to Trump: “No one should call for the harassment of political opponents. That’s not right; that’s not American.” Schumer formerly served on the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security.
Bernie Sanders, who identified himself as a socialist in the 2016 Democratic primary, climbed aboard the “let’s-be-civil” bandwagon by saying, “Our opponents have the right to go into a restaurant and have dinner.” Sanders’ remarks came just days after Rep. Waters’ speech and widespread media coverage, and left no doubt about whom he was criticizing.
Not one of these “leaders” — not even “socialist” Bernie Sanders — denounced Trump for his white supremacist response or threat against Rep. Waters. And none of them have denounced the death threats against her. In contrast, members of the Congressional Black Caucus have rallied around her.
The Democratic leaders are signaling to the corporate class that, though the party may try to appeal to people of color by occasionally mouthing the right words, it is really a party of and for capitalism. The Party leaders are saying they will reject any sign of genuine militancy in the workers’ struggle, the Black struggle or the struggle for migrant rights.
For Pelosi and Schumer it was more important to placate the capitalist class than to call out Trump’s white supremacy. As for Sanders, he has previously taken positions that have disappointed his followers, but this is a striking cave-in. He has chosen not to close ranks with an important, leading Black congressperson who is being subjected to a racist attack. Instead, he’s asking for acceptance from a party leadership that has sabotaged and ignored him.
In fact, the Democrats’ “fear of socialism” was in clear evidence when Pelosi stated there is no “ascendant socialism” in the Democratic Party after the astounding primary victory of democratic socialist Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez in the 14th Congressional District in New York City.
The Democratic leadership will try to stifle the fightback that Maxine Waters expresses and that many of Sanders’ supporters aspire to as well. Their treatment of Rep. Waters and their inaction against Trump’s white supremacy reveal their true character.