Bob Hoffman and Brent Urban outside Rep. Sharice Davids’ office
Every sigh and side-eye in the fight going on inside the Democratic Party, every head-butt and how could you, was playing out right there on the sidewalk outside freshman U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids’ office in Overland Park.
“We’re dividing ourselves doing this, people,” a man named Brent Urban told some of those who had come Thursday to protest the Democratic Davids from the left over her recent vote to provide emergency funding for immigrant detention camps at the border.
“I’m doing this because I’m the descendant of Holocaust survivors,” protest organizer Bob Hoffman answered, his voice and hands shaking with emotion. “Because nobody stood up for the people in the camps” then, he told Urban, the German public could lull itself to sleep with the fiction that “We’re treating them humanely.”
Urban didn’t let the Holocaust reference stop him. “She’s not for this,” he said of Davids — not for the camps or the kids in cages just because she voted, in a choice between bad and worse, for money to house people in intolerable conditions who would have been even more inhumanely treated without it.
“In six months,” Urban asked, “are we not going to support her” reelection, and instead let a less compassionate Republican represent Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District?
“If you care about children,” Hoffman told him, you’ll agree that there would be no camps without the complicity of Democrats.
Somehow, this didn’t convince Urban: “I support Sharice 100%. This is just divisive.” And that’s when the train really jumped the tracks.
A protester holding a stuffed animal dismissed his dissent — and him — with the all-purpose put-down of the moment. “You’re exposing your privilege,” Mary Benrud-Gachie told him.
“Oh my God,” Urban muttered in response, just as a man in a passing van yelled, “Deport ‘em all!”
“F--- you!” a young woman holding a #NeverAgain sign shouted back, making me wonder if she has one of those “Hate Has No Home Here” garden signs outside her bunker.
When Urban told Hoffman that he wouldn’t be closing any camps from a suburban sidewalk in Kansas, DACA beneficiary Alex Martinez tried to shout him down and shut him down, too: “Ignore that privilege! Ignore that white supremacy!”
As a one-act play, I’d have to call the dramatic scene I witnessed, with Democrats attacking fellow Democrats, “Why Donald J. Trump may very well be reelected next year.”
Yes, the protesters are correct that the detention camps are all wrong. They’re exercising their perfect right to peaceful protest. Too often, we fail to hold our allies accountable. And anyone who lost family in the Holocaust deserves a respectful hearing.
Police called to the protest accused Hoffman of trying to put on a show. But when he said quietly at one point that he’d really come because “I don’t know what else to do,” I believed him; I think he was there because his heart is breaking.
But those like Davids or Urban who differ with the protesters on the best way to accomplish the common goal of a more humane immigration policy deserve respect, too.
Yelling about white privilege outside the office of one of the first Native American women elected to Congress is less woke than protesters may think.
Not so long ago, Davids was demonstrating outside that same office, on the same issue, alongside some of the same people now berating her. But she’s also someone who is careful by nature; that’s how she managed to defeat GOP Rep. Kevin Yoder last year, and her moderation is very much in keeping with the swing district she now represents.
And while the more liberal purists outside her office were demonstrating why Trump may win again, they may also, unintentionally, have been helping Davids stay in office.