“Congress,” observed H.L. Mencken, “consists of one-third, more or less, scoundrels; two-thirds, more or less, idiots; and three-thirds, more or less, poltroons.” Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., qualifies as all three. At a weekend rally, Waters exhorted her audience to “get out and…create a crowd” if they see a Trump official in public venue. “If you see anybody from that cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them,” she declared. “Tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.” Her fatwa, which followed the publicized ejection of White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders from a Virginia restaurant, amounts to a call for criminal harassment. What’s especially scary is that she’ll have takers.
Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who represents residents of South-Central Los Angeles and surrounding communities, has been in Washington too long. That can be said of many lawmakers, of course. But the woman known to admirers as “Auntie Maxine,” and to critics as “Mad Max,” may be seen as uniquely awful. Given her views and the manner in which she expresses them, Rep. Waters, now in her 14th term and turning 80 this August, is arguably the most reprehensible – and the wackiest – member of the House of Representatives since Gus Savage, D-Ill., like her, an admirer of Louis Farrakhan. This den mother of demagoguery has been practicing her craft for a long time. She is quick to call her critics “racist.” Waters termed the lethal Los Angeles riot of 1992 “a spontaneous reaction to a lot of injustice.” Several years later, she accused the CIA of conspiring with crack cocaine traffickers to destroy black neighborhoods across America, a charge neither the Justice Department nor the Los Angeles Times concluded was credible. In 2009, she co-sponsored a bill by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., to force slavery reparations payments to American blacks. That’s just a sample of her greatest fits.
Aside from being possessed of racially-charged ideological zeal, Waters is ethically compromised, or to put it less euphemistically, corrupt. Back in August 2010, Waters was charged by the House Ethics Committee with three ethics violations in connection with her alleged steering of $12 million in Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) bailout funds to OneUnited Bank, a black-owned Boston-based financial institution in which her husband held a large stake. Her response several months later was to call for an investigation of the committee, which eventually exonerated her in September 2012. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a nonpartisan watchdog group, named her as among the most corrupt members of Congress for each of 2005, 2006, 2009, 2011 and 2017. Waters, the leading Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, remains unfazed.
The arrival of Donald Trump in Washington last January recharged her batteries. Here was the embodiment of all that she loathed – a guy who was rich, white and on the Right. Without any evidence of his abuse of office, she has been leading a charge for President Trump’s impeachment almost from the start. Just two weeks after his inauguration, Rep. Waters announced, “My greatest desire is to lead him right into impeachment.” She hasn’t gotten her wish yet. But in the aftermath of the recent stage-managed brouhaha about Trump “ripping” immigrant children from their parents and placing them in “concentration camps,” she’s been doubling down to lots of applause.
The trigger for Waters’ latest outburst was the ejection of Trump Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and several of her friends and associates by the management of a restaurant in rural Lexington, Virginia for the crime of working for President Trump. She urged her supporters to aggressively get in the faces of the president’s cabinet and other top aides as a response to the separation of illegal immigrant parents and their children near the U.S.-Mexico border. Not long before, likewise reeking of self-righteousness masquerading as “conscience,” demonstrators confronted Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen while she was having dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Washington. Maxine Waters speaks to such people. They are her foot soldiers.
For now, leading Democrats, knowing the potential for blowback, are rebuking Waters. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., speaking on the Senate floor, stated: “I strongly disagree with those who advocate harassing folks if they don’t agree with you. No one should call for the harassment of political opponents.” House Minority Leader Pelosi, speaking far more out of strategy than principle, said this about Waters in a tweet: “Trump’s daily lack of civility has provoked responses that are predictable but unacceptable.” If impeachment is Pelosi’s end game, she’ll have popular support. A CNN poll released last week found that 42 percent of the respondents wanted Trump impeached, a figure that was 77 percent among self-identified Democrats. Even “moderate” party members, such as Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., a critic of impeachment, may be unlikely to resist the herd if they sense that voters will turn on them.
Human beings everywhere are wired for conformity. All too often, we hold certain beliefs and undertake certain actions because “everybody else” does. Given the right choice of words and tone of voice, it is not that hard for a demagogue to convince an army of true believers to harass, assault or even kill designated “enemies.” James Hodginson, the late true believer who shot and wounded House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., and three other persons last June at the annual Congressional Baseball Game in Alexandria, Va., didn’t see himself as a criminal. He saw himself as a hero, rescuing our nation from an oppressive occupying force. His rationalizations were familiar. People such as Maxine Waters, knowingly or not, have legitimized such behavior. And as long as such scoundrels keep getting reelected, they will have a high perch for their demagoguery.