Stephen Miller is an impressively unlikeable person, and was long before he became an ethno-nationalist authoritarian apparatchik. This is, after all, the guy who as a high schooler in Santa Monica, California, ran for student government on a platform of Why Do We Have to Clean Up After Ourselves, the Janitors Get Paid to Clean Up After Us. He was booed then, and it seems he’s often getting booed now when he shows his Gargamel-adjacent mug in public.
The Washington Post rounded up some instances of Trump officials getting bad receptions when they step out in Washington, D.C., and Miller’s debacle at a local restaurant made the list:
Did this actually happen? Certainly, the fact this story comes from members of the administration of Donald Trump, American president, is not a point in favor. Eighty dollars is an incredible amount to spend on one night’s sushi—unless, of course, Miller was picking up a group order for his Huge Number of Friends Whom He Hangs Out With All the Time. (Also, you haven’t met his girlfriend from camp because she lives in Canada.) It does have the ring of something you’d tell your MAGA colleagues to demonstrate you both have the wherewithal to drop four Jacksons on fish and would flush it all down the toilet to own the libs.
But let’s say it did happen. The Post article did a good job of simply presenting these various acts of incivility towards the kakistocrats as they are. Often, though, private citizens’ decisions to make life uncomfortable for the people tearing children from their parents and throwing them into an abyss of bureaucracy—one that has necessitated DNA tests to try to put families back together—has been presented as some assault on All That We Hold Dear. Miller was the architect of, and head cheerleader for, the “zero-tolerance policy” with family separations as an intended consequence.
In reality, these are acts of public shaming to respond to public officials’ actions and behavior in office. The intent is to place social penalties on behavior that is not illegal, but which some citizens feel must be discouraged. If you choose a career in public life, you will be held accountable for what you do in it. Miller, and Sarah Huckabee Sanders, are public servants paid by the taxpayer. Republicans have worked tirelessly to limit the old-fashioned democratic recourse that Certain People have by restricting the right to vote, diluting the power of certain votes, and attempting to pack the judiciary with judges who will uphold these anti-democratic power grabs.
But even if they hadn’t, it would still be totally acceptable for a restaurant owner to turn Sanders away, or for a bartender to offer Miller some feedback in no uncertain terms. Civility is not among the core values of a democratic culture—unless you have sufficient privilege that you instinctively protect the status quo above all else. Every great protest movement in America has been uncivil. The Founders were uncivil. And most of all, Trump officials are not being punished for who they are, but because of what they’ve done.