The Red Hen, the Baker, and Refusing Service

Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave a restaurant in Virginia. I think this is a positive good, and I don’t think Masterpiece bakers had the right to refuse a gay couple a cake.

There is nothing in the Masterpiece case to indicate that the customers behaved or intended to behave, professionally or personally, in a way that would hurt the bakers. The bakers thought a gay marriage sinful according to their own religion, but this only gives them the right to preach against it and to not enter into such unions. I suppose they can pick and choose their personal friends on such grounds also, but they can’t discriminate commercially.

Sanders is quite a different story.  She is on the public payroll, in the public eye, supported by taxes everyone pays.   She isn’t a civil servant working to implement the policies of an a legitimately elected administration  that operates within the larger norms and rules of democracy. She is a political appointee whose daily practice is to lie and deceive, actively subverting the function of the press,  in the interest of a hateful, mendacious, deliberately ignorant president who respects no norms, and whose praxis is to spread hate and fear. To injure the sick, the child refugee at our gates, the brown, the black, the poor, the young, and the unfortunate are not within the legitimate range of left-to-right American governance policy preferences. No member of the Trump administration deserves to have Luis[a] Gomez so much as wash a dish for her.

Back in the day, there was a legal status of outlaw whose disrespect for the law and its courts was so great that they were thought unworthy of the protections of those institutions, and left to the mercies of citizen vigilantes.  That was not good practice; even the Kelly gang deserved fair trials.  But the senior officials of the Trump administration are properly “outlaws” with respect to the norms and standards of civilized society, and they don’t have any right to hide behind those norms for the right to circulate in public.  Republicans who haven’t completely surrendered their consciences and brains to the Trump-Putin kleptocracy have a right to eat out in peace; Trump people at the level of Sanders have surrendered that right. They can  eat at home with whoever will still socialize with them, or perhaps at venues whose staff, customers, and owners aren’t their intended victims.  One more time; they should be pariahs not because of their beliefs, but because of their behavior, behavior actively hostile to wide swaths of the population and far outside the norms and conventions that entitle the rest of us to a peaceful night out among citizens.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

Michael O’Hare

Michael O'Hare is a Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley.