With his we-know-where-your-children-go-to-school threat directed at two Supreme Court justices, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer cast his lot with his party's lunatic fringe, tacitly legitimizing mob rule as an acceptable response to political or policy differences.
Schumer, the congressional face of the Democratic Party, warned Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh they would "pay the price" if they voted to uphold a restrictive anti-abortion law enacted in Louisiana.
While Schumer stopped short of advocating violence, his remarks were stunning in their personal nature and implications that mob psychology is an appropriate factor in partisan disagreements with Supreme Court rulings.
Rather than realizing that he'd gone too far, Schumer initially responded by attacking the Chief Justice John Roberts, accusing him of promoting a right wing conspiracy and distorting his remarks.
As the outrage grew, Schumer issued a half-baked apology - "I shouldn't have used those words" - which was as mealy-mouthed as it was insincere.
His rationale that he was from Brooklyn and that's the way people talk there was borderline idiotic and insulting to that borough's population.
In his attempt to explain himself and get out from under what he belatedly realized was a rapidly deteriorating mess, Schumer lamely insisted his remarks were meant as a warning to Republicans that they would be punished by voters if the court ruled in favor of the Louisiana law.
No Republicans were mentioned, though. Only the two justices.
Schumer is not some political naif who fails to understand or appreciate the impact and consequences of his rhetoric. He chose his words and knew precisely the effect they would have when delivered to a receptive audience.
Despite Schumer's protests to the contrary, it shouldn't have come as a surprise he would confront a barrage of accusations that it was an outrageous and unprecedented attempt to intimidate the court by threatening its two newest justices.
In a larger sense, the episode - tawdry as it was - is indicative of the increasing hold of the far left on the national party.
Schumer played to the cheap seats, currying favor with the faction of his party to whom civil discourse means restricting oneself to only one profane expression per sentence. His threats were morsels of raw meat tossed to a faction to whom intimidation tactics are an essential part of their agenda.
Stalking, confronting and verbally berating members of the Trump administration in public places have been embraced and celebrated by the party's left fringe. Remember former press secretary Sarah Sanders and her family being denied service and asked to leave a roadside chicken palace in Virginia?
Others were harassed with their families in restaurants and forced to leave to avoid physical confrontation while still others dealt with chanting protestors outside their homes.
The president shares a portion of the blame as well for the depth to which the public debate has fallen. He ridicules and demeans opponents, hanging derogatory nicknames on them, poking fun at physical appearances and mocking their intellectual prowess. His ongoing combat with the media has often taken an ugly turn, including characterizing reporters as "an enemy of the people" and accusing them of partisan bias.
The issue before the court which Schumer addressed involves the constitutionality of a Louisiana law to require physicians who provide abortion services to hold credentials at a hospital within thirty miles of their offices.
Opponents argue the law is so restrictive that its practical effect would be to ban abortions and deny a constitutional right.
Abortion is one of the most divisive issues in American politics, arousing intense passions on both sides and, sadly, producing violence and physical harm.
There is, however, no justification for publicly threatening those in whom the Constitution places trust and the solemn responsibility for determining the validity of government actions in dealing with the issue.
No matter the court's eventual disposition of the case, there will be disappointment and jubilation. Reaching extraordinarily difficult decisions on matters of great sensitivity and emotional intensity is the court's sworn duty and obligation and is the foundation upon which judicial independence rests.
Justices serve lifetime appointments to insulate the court from political retribution brought on by their decisions and, more importantly, to guarantee the justices are totally free to deliberate without looking over their shoulders or worrying about political and private interest pressures.
And, it is that freedom which was so gravely threatened by Schumer.
Copyright 2020 Carl Golden, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
Carl Golden is a senior contributing analyst with the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University in New Jersey. You can reach him at [email protected]