So let’s follow the progression: Two weeks after Trump was elected, Mike Pence went to see Hamilton on Broadway and got a respectful talking to from the stage. There was a long pause on this sort of direct action until, last Tuesday, Kirstjen Nielsen was heckled as she ate dinner at a Mexican restaurant. Three days later, Sarah Huckabee Sanders went to dinner at a restaurant called the Red Hen and the owner asked her to leave. And on Sunday, Maxine Waters upped the ante by suggesting that rather than just ask Trump staffers to leave, citizens ought to mob them and shame them, Cersei Lannister-style, whenever they are seen in public.
This is a disgusting and appalling lack of civility and a departure from the norms of American political discourse and I cannot fathom where liberals got the idea for it and, by the by, here is a list of some things the current president of the United States of America said while campaigning for his office:
“I’d like to punch him in the face.”
“Maybe he should have been roughed up.”
“Part of the problem . . . is no one wants to hurt each other anymore.”
“I don’t know if I’ll do the fighting myself or if other people will.”
“The audience hit back. That’s what we need a little bit more of.”
“If you do [hurt him], I’ll defend you in court, don’t worry about it.”
“I’ll beat the crap out of you.”
“Knock the crap out of him, would you? I promise you, I will pay your legal fees.”
It’s a mystery, isn’t it? Where in the world did Maxine Waters and the Red Hen and the people in that Mexican restaurant come up with such terrible, norm-shattering ideas about civility?
–Jonathan V. Last, This Business Will Get Out of Control
The Wild West Show could also, as “Hamilton” does now, become a lightning rod for political concerns. Consider what happened on April 2, 1901, when a new version of the show featuring a reenactment of a 1900 battle fought in China premiered at Madison Square Garden. Like the “Hamilton” performance that Vice President-elect Mike Pence attended in November, there was a famous man in the crowd that night, Mark Twain. The audience loved the show, but Twain disagreed with Buffalo Bill’s interpretation of the Boxer War. The next day, newspapers wrote that Twain walked out of the show in disgust, with an expression “as sour as a German pickle,” as one journalist put it. A leading voice in the anti-imperialist camp of the day, Twain viewed the anti-Christian Boxers as “patriots” fighting foreign encroachment on China, whereas Cody portrayed them as bloodthirsty fiends.
–Jeffrey Wasserstrom, Buffalo Bill–A Truth-Bending Showman for Our Times?
Unless Twain, pausing as he left after the show to listen to a tendentious speech specifically addressed to him by Buffalo Bill, and having applauded with apparent sincerity during the performance several times, had been booed by half the crowd upon entering and walked out smiling anyway, the contexts and particulars Wasserstrom cites are so different that it’s tough to detect any insight here, apart from the idea that famous political figures, then as now, occasionally attend performances that may challenge their worldviews.
It’s as if Pence was the designated survivor of the Republican primary, a man held away from the carnage Trump has inflicted on the Republican Party, its conventions, orthodoxies, and pieties. Party figures like Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani embrace Trump as he is. Others, like Paul Ryan, try to demand more, and get nothing in return. Ted Cruz tried to shiv Trump at the convention, then feebly extracted a meaningless promise from him before endorsing him in September. Every strategy of blocking Trump, co-opting Trump, or parlaying with him as failed.
But in this debate, Pence did something that no one has tried before. He simply refused to acknowledge that there was any problem at all. You’ve heard lots of crazy things about Trump. But I’m here to do a job, and frankly, acknowledging the reality of his situation or ours can only get in my way.Pence made it seem as if Trump’s own words, when spoken by Tim Kaine, somehow discredited Tim Kaine. Mike Pence was a walking, talking memory hole.
–Michael Brendan Dougherty, Mike Pence’s bizarro world