White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted recently that she had been refused service by a Virginia restaurant, the previous night. According to Sanders, the owner of the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia asked her to leave because she worked for President Donald Trump. A furious debate ensued on social media, including calls for a boycott of the restaurant. Amid the crossfire of accusations and outrage, how is each side of America’s ever-widening ideological chasm portraying the opposite side’s position? What, if any, are the relative merits of the two opposing viewpoints? Most importantly, perhaps, why is this incident even capable of triggering such a massive food-fight?
The separation of illegal alien families was, we have been told, the worst thing to happen to human beings since the Holocaust. Indeed, the Trump administration’s handling of the illegal alien issue may be the very excuse that the restaurant owner needed to refuse service to Sanders. The issue is really nothing more than the left’s latest shiny object, however — the new crusade that has temporarily displaced all other leftist crusades in their ideological war against conservatism and American values.
Last night I was told by the owner of Red Hen in Lexington, VA to leave because I work for @POTUS and I politely left. Her actions say far more about her than about me. I always do my best to treat people, including those I disagree with, respectfully and will continue to do so
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) June 23, 2018
False Comparison: Red Hen vs. Masterpiece Cakeshop
Comparisons were quickly drawn between the restaurant’s refusal of service to Sanders and the Colorado baker who refused to create a cake for a same-sex wedding. Leftists cried foul when Trump supporters directed their anger at the Virginia restaurant after many on the right had previously supported the baker’s denial of service to a gay couple. The way the left framed the comparison fails to hold up to close observation, though.
The baker was punished for refusing to actively participate in a ceremony that violated his sincerely held religious beliefs. The baker did not refuse all service to the gay couple requesting a wedding cake; he would gladly have sold them goods for any other occasion. He merely refused to dedicate his skills and talent specifically to an event that went against his Christian faith.
Jack Phillips, the owner of the Masterpiece Cakeshop, was being compelled, in effect, to endorse same-sex marriage. The staff and owners of the Red Hen restaurant were not being compelled to endorse the policies of the Trump administration merely by serving food to a member of the president’s administration. Additionally, Sanders will not be filing a civil rights complaint against the restaurant; she did not play the victim or claim discrimination.
That Sanders decided to recount the incident on Twitter is hardly the same as resorting to legal action. No doubt – and quite understandably – she was stung by the fact that a restaurant owner refused service to her over nothing more than political differences. It should be noted that the owner is something of a left-wing activist rather than an otherwise politically neutral citizen who merely decided to take a stand on one specific issue.
The Growing Black Hole of Partisan Politics
To an extent, the outrage on the right could also be seen as misplaced or manufactured. Any true conservative or libertarian would surely believe that a private business should have the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason. That said, Trump supporters and others on the right are more stung by the left’s hypocrisy than by Sanders being denied service at a restaurant. They, too, consider the frenzy whipped up over the Colorado baker’s case. If leftists condemn a person for refusing to do business with someone on religious grounds – a choice protected by the First Amendment – how can they then applaud a person for refusing to do business with a customer over nothing more than political differences?
America has come a long way since the beginning of 2017. Economically, the trajectory is upwards toward a better future. Culturally, however, things appear to be going downhill rapidly. That may be a more alarmist assumption than is necessary, one could argue. Cooler heads might say that it is only a very vocal, hardcore minority on the extreme left and an even smaller vocal minority on the extreme right that is driving the mutual animosity. Unfortunately, more and more otherwise reasonable people are finding themselves sucked into a black hole of politically partisan bickering.
The progressive left’s agenda of dehumanizing their opponents is reaching a new hysterical high. When Americans get to the point where they are unable to dine together, drink together or otherwise socialize together because of their political differences, one can only wonder where it will end.