The Red Hen, the baker, and refusing service

Sara 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.

Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.

32 thoughts on “The Red Hen, the baker, and refusing service”

  1. Jack Phillips once wrote, "I won’t design a cake that promotes something that conflicts with the Bible’s teachings. And that rule applies to far more than cakes celebrating same-sex marriages."

    I'm not sure I understand exactly WHAT about the cake Mr. Phillips objects to. Is it just placing topper on the cake depicting two grooms, or is it just creating a cake specifically for a Gay couple?

    Imagine this scenario: A Straight (i.e. heterosexual) couple comes in wanting a unique cake for their wedding. They want four tiers, all enrobed with peach-colored fondant, with white piping and pink roses. "No problem," says Jack Phillips.

    So imagine a Gay couple coming in and requesting exactly the same cake. No "two groom" toppers, no rainbows, nothing that screams "GAY." Will Jack Phillips decline this order simply because the couple in question is Gay? THAT'S what I'd like to know … because if Mr Phillips would turn away a Gay couple for a cake he would ordinarily be happy to create for a Straight couple, that is flagrantly in violation of anti-discrimination laws, at least in Colorado.

    Well, he has his little victory, although the broader question of whether civil rights laws are still relevant has yet to be decided. It would certainly be nice if Jack Phillips would post a sign in front of his shop that reads, "We do not make wedding cakes for Gay couples." Then LGBT people and our allies wouldn't have to bother darkening his doorstep.

    1. "I'm not sure I understand exactly WHAT about the cake Mr. Phillips objects to. Is it just placing topper on the cake depicting two grooms, or is it just creating a cake specifically for a Gay couple?"

      That is all in the court record. He doesn't object to the gay couple at all. He is willing to make a birthday cake or graduation cake for them, but not a wedding cake.

      According to the record he also refused to make wedding cakes for people for their second marriage, and refused to make cakes celebrating Halloween.

    2. I believe President Obama also believed in the quiet power of a dignified “raised eyebrow” since this, accompanied by a stern admonition to “cut it out”. was his response to Vladimir Putin’s intervention on the 2016 election on behalf of the Republicans. Needless to say, Putin told Obama to shove his quiet dignity where the sun don’t shine. Obama folded but did so with quiet dignity

      This country would’ve been a lot better off if Obama had heeded the wisdom of his fellow Chicagoan, Al Capone, and realized that you can get more done with a kind word and a gun than with a kind word alone. Bringing a raised eyebrow to a gunfight is even more foolish than bringing a knife.

  2. Sanders using her official position to retaliate against a private business should seal her dining-out fate. If this is not a government ethics violation it should be. Sanders knows that if she calls out the Red Hen on national TV like this, that it's very likely to irreparably damage their business. If that happens, I hope they can sue her for damages resulting from abuse of power.

      1. Considering the last election turned on the crucial question of proper e-mail management, it is a little strange that Trump uses an unsecured phone, and can't be talked out of it. And SHS used her public, taxpayer funded, Twitter account for a private beef. Did those pesky Democrats pass another law no one has heard about, like the one requiring separation of parents and families? They must be stopped! We
        need to give the Republicans a fighting chance to pass some secret laws by electing a Democratic congress.

      2. Considering the last election turned on the crucial question of proper e-mail management, it is a little strange that Trump uses an unsecured phone, and can't be talked out of it. And SHS used her public, taxpayer funded, Twitter account for a private beef. Did those pesky Democrats pass another law no one has heard about, like the one requiring separation of parents and families? They must be stopped! We need to give the Republicans a fighting chance to pass some secret laws by electing a Democratic congress.

  3. Sanders' illegal tweet, in which she said, " I always do my best to treat people, including those I disagree with, respectfully and will continue to do so," seems honest (possibly a first for her) and reveals that she doesn't get it. Decent people don't "disagree" with Trump's positions; they consider him, and her for her complicity, moral monsters. To disagree implies that there are two sides to an issue. There are not two sides to kidnapping babies and children-either morally or under the Constitution-any more than there were two sides to the Holocaust. "Disagree" would not be the right word to describe decent people's objections to the Holocaust.

  4. Well, Mike, I will associate myself with Nancy and Chuck, while you have associated yourself with Maxine… I think it's not smart to feed grievance on the part of the Trumpistas, and this does that.
    I don't think this kind of antics on the part of the left contribute to any kind of reconciliation.

    1. Slate has an article arguing, "There’s also little evidence to support the idea that liberals are alienating moderate and independent voters by expressing outrage at Trump and his administration. Widespread dislike for the president is one force behind the striking Democratic gains of the past 18 months."

      There is no way to know, but it may be that treating people who are not fit for decent society as if they are not fit for decent society helps rally Democrats without creating more Trump supporters.

      1. Seems to me there are two questions which someone not fond of Trump might consider: is shunning justified? and will shunning result in greater likelihood of removing the Orange Crusher from public life never to return? My preferred question is behind door number two, and I think the answer is no. You are also addressing the question behind door two, and you are suggesting maybe yes. Several of the folks here are focused on the door one question, and that ('you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar') seems imprudent to me.

        1. I think this analysis perfectly encapsulates the failure of Democratic thinking for the past thirty years. For example, Obama constantly trimmed and hedged out of the fear that conservatives would be angered and reconciliation would thus be more difficult once the Republican “fever” broke. Republicans are already as angry as it is possible to be, they’re interested only in dominance, and they’ve got no interest in any “reconciliation” that doesn’t involve the total submission of Democrats. What is it exactly that we need to be worried about the Republicans doing that they’ve resisted doing thus far out of a sense of restraint?

          1. Mitch, clearly our views differ. but on 'What is it exactly that we need to be worried about the Republicans doing that they’ve resisted doing thus far out of a sense of restraint?' - I think we can clearly worry about recruiting MORE Reeps to do things which only SOME Reeps have been doing up to now.

          2. I just can't think of anything that the Republicans have been doing or that Fox News has been holding back out of some reciprocal sense of decorum or restraint. If you assume that the system only goes to 11, they're already there and I haven't seen any indication that they're hold back or not recruiting more mass shooters or more horrible people attacking liberals or calling for the murder of Maxine Waters or journalists or whatever.

            All the norms are gone. All the guardrails are gone. Everyone needs to start figuring out how to deal with our current situation.

          3. Here is another example of Obama's failure:

            I argued at the time that President Barack Obama should have nominated not Mr. Garland but Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, then 43 years old and an associate justice on the California Supreme Court. Mr. Cuéllar would have been an aggressively political choice in exactly the way Mr. Garland was not. As a young, impeccably credentialed Mexican-American — by far the largest of the Latino voting blocs — he would have been someone to whom the Democrats’ core constituencies would have developed an emotional attachment. Someone they’d fight for.

            That, of course, is in all likelihood exactly why Mr. Obama didn’t nominate him — too political. Mr. Obama appeared to have deluded himself into thinking that if he advanced an older man (Mr. Garland was 63, meaning he would not be on the court for 40 years) with something of a centrist reputation, Mitch McConnell might decide to be a reasonable fellow and give him a vote.

            But as everyone else in the world knew, Mr. McConnell was never going to give him a vote. And no, he wouldn’t have given Mr. Cuéllar a vote either. But in that case, the refusal would have carried a higher political price. It would have energized the Latino vote. It would have made the Supreme Court a more central voting issue to Democratic constituencies than poor Mr. Garland ever became.


          4. This is an absolutely perfect example. It's almost as if the Democratic establishment wants to win but not at the cost of energizing their base, which seems well to their left. I think that difference in levels of intensity is a big reason why the Democrats do well in special elections in which the establishment doesn't participate but tends to send the larger effort into the toilet when it come to soiling themselves trying to actually energize actual Democratic voters.

    2. If only the Red Hen had served SHS, Trump voters would be out of grievances. Man, that would be great. Hannity announces, "I was going to stoke resentment and ressentiment today, which is the reason you tune in, but there's nothing there. The liberals, the elites, the pointy-headed intellectuals, the academics and SJWs are silent. Should we show puppy videos? Oh, here, I see that Trump tweeted something ugly at Jimmy Fallon, but rather than respond in kind, Fallon took the high road and just sent a donation to RAICES. That's great! See, liberals can be civil and respectful. Trump went low, and Fallon went high! If the President himself joins Fallon on the high road and apologizes, and maybe also apologizes for calling Rep. Maxine Waters a "very low IQ person," I see a new birth of Grace throughout our great country."

      Back to the real world. If it were possible for every single liberal and member of the resistance to model grace at all times and in all circumstances, I think that would be more effective than refusing to serve SHS or publicly confronting Trump admin officials, and would provide a great contrast to the moral horror of constant incivility, open hostility and gratuitous cruelty that emanates from Trump every day, several times a day. This is what Jackie Robinson did in his first season in the Bigs. It's why MLK, Jr. and Gandhi preached nonviolence.

      As difficult as it was for Robinson, his actions were subject to his control. If a bunch of folks had gotten together to harass some opposing player who treated Robinson badly, opponents of integration would've used it, effectively, to discredit Robinson even though he was modeling opposite behavior. And of course, King (and Gandhi, I assume) was assailed for actions, like the riots in the Long, Hot Summer, beyond his control; again, effectively. History books show blacks getting firehosed, beaten, having food dumped on their heads, but to his opponents, he wasn't martyred for nonviolent resistance, but instead paid the price for his alleged advocacy of violence and disorder.

      And even here, you cite the outburst of a hothead congressperson, one of 194 House Dems, most of whom aren't inciting any kind of disruption, in contrast to the actions of the Dem leaders of the Senate and House. If any one congressperson can trump Party leadership, then how on earth is anyone supposed to stop that?

      Here's the deal. The Trump admin is a moral abomination unlike anything in recent memory. He's abetted by talk radio, Evangelical apologists and websites that were considered beyond the fringe, by conservatives, a few years ago. The resistance is vast collection of individual actors, some of whom are profoundly decent people, some of whom aren't. When organized into marches, they've been peaceful and respectful. Individually, some have crossed the line, and others will in the future. But, unless we're in for a whole lot of darkness, in the future the resistance will be seen as Children of the Light, as Gandhi, King, anti-Nazi resisters and anti-slavery advocates are. And Trump and his minions will be seen as the dark, malevolent creatures they are. And the people who criticized Trump's critics for intemperance will be forgotten.

  5. Wow, you’re really mad.

    I preface by saying, this is easy for me to say bc I don’t pay those people much attention.

    I also happen to think that that is a more proper response, and maybe more effective. The media should simply vastly constrict their coverage. If they truly lie, don’t put them on the air anymore.

    They can show a still photo and a link to a *transcript* of what was said.

    I’m not even sure it is ethical to broadcast people who apparently lie this much.

    But it would have to be done in a fair way. I need to think more about it. We can’t turn the hapless rightist followers into even greater MSM haters. To *any* extent that their critiques are fair … again, I haven’t put in the time … these should be addressed.

    Being rude to people seems to me like two wrongs not getting us anywhere. Besides, I think it was Miss Manners? But you can convey a lot without having to be actually rude. There is the icy silence, the raised eyebrow … and if one were in a mind to be mean, these are better bc they are subtle and will bother the person into “self deporting” themself from the location. Wondering if it really happened.

    1. The media should simply vastly constrict their coverage. If they truly lie, don’t put them on the air anymore.

      I agree with this.

      Also, I wonder why reporters keep going to these "press briefings." There is no actual information being provided, just a stream of BS and lies. It seems as if the events at the briefing have become sort of meta-news. Maybe the attendees could better use their time for actually gathering and reporting the news.

      1. Historically, the biggest scoops have been produced by reporters and outlets shut out of briefings and the highly-placed-source game. But that's more expensive and doesn't produce reliable copy that doesn't interfere with the ads.

        1. I think that's the main problem. Once entertainment and news merged and became just another reality show, all that "calling out" and supposed pushing back by the journalists was simply part of the show. You'll notice that no matter how despicable the conservatives or Trump operatives are, the cable channels like CNN never stop inviting them back because that's good television. They go to Trump's rallies and stay in the pen and take the abuse because that's creating some good moments for the reality tv show, too.

  6. I do not think the restaurant owner was rude. She told Sarah Sanders that her presence bothered the waiters. That is, she informed Ms. Sanders about the consequences of her actions (making others miserable). Neither side is claiming that she gave this information in a rude manner.

    1. She may have spoken politely, but I think the request was rude. It is okay to be rude sometimes. And you make an important distinction. I am not yet convinced though that this was one of those times.

      Also - Professor O'Hare, please elaborate on what makes this different from the non-cake-maker. I assure you, there are people in the world who are genuinely (however misguidedly since almost all that stuff is in the Old Testament … and afaik, none of it is Jesus-based…) “offended” (whatever that means anymore …) by the existence of gay people. And maybe even more by the anything goes philosophy.

      So if being offended is now the new guide for behavior, where the heck is this all going to end? What’s Her Name has not … again, afaik, and I pay her zero attention … committed any crimes.

      1. "Rude" would have been taking away Sanders' family members (to wash their hands) and never returning them. This wasn't rude.

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