Point of View Columns

The Birth of Trumpageddon

Historians will undoubtedly look at the 2016 presidential campaign as being unique. The looming and tantalizing presence of Trumpageddon will virtually overshadow everything, much the same way as Donald Trump himself sucks up the media oxygen every day of this very bizarre year. But the most astute historians will go back a half century earlier to discover the roots of Trumpageddon, roots that have nothing to do with Donald J. Trump and have everything to do with the intentional reinvention of the Republican Party in 1964.

Prior to 1964 the national Republican party was indisputably more progressive when it came to civil rights for black Americans. After all, the Democratic Party was deeply rooted in the South, roots that went back as far as the end of Reconstruction and the federal occupation of the formerly treasonous Confederacy in 1876.

After all, the Republican Party came into being with the abolition of slavery being a principal plank in its national political platform in 1860. Abraham Lincoln, the author of the Emancipation Proclamation was a Republican. And when the seething South was liberated from federal occupation in 1876, due in large part to the tricknology of Rutherford B. Hayes who swapped the freedom, civil rights and physical safety of Southern black people in exchange for the presidency, southerners embraced the Democratic Party as their own.

The Democratic Party in the South was the party of Jim Crow and lynching. Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican president, invited the first black American to dine at the White House. Woodrow Wilson, a Democratic president, hosted the premier of “Birth of a Nation” in the White House.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democratic president, never supported anti-lynching legislation for fear of alienating his Southern party members. And it was Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican president, who sent federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas to enforce the Supreme Court’s decision that racially segregated public schools were unconstitutional.

Prior to his untimely death, Democratic President John F. Kennedy was nowhere near a staunch supporter of the Civil Rights Act that was passed posthumously. And in 1960, Richard Nixon, his Republican opponent in that presidential election, had virtually the same amount of support in the national black community as he did.

As late as 1964, the Democratic Party was the home of  blood-soaked and hate drenched racist villains such as Thurmond and Stennis and Faubus and Wallace and Bilbo. And in 1964 every state that had been a part of the Confederate States of America was firmly on the Democratic side of the national political register.

And then the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed with the urging of Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson, followed by the Voting Rights Act of 1965. And as if by magic, during the following decade, the Republican Party was ascendant in the South, vacuuming up all the disenchanted white Southerners, supposedly in the name of conservatism and state’s rights, but in reality the transition was fueled by the deep and abiding resentment that black Americans were afforded some measure of citizenship by the Damned Democrats.

Should there any be any doubt regarding the linkage of race and the Republican ascendancy, it should be remembered that Ronald Reagan, the patron saint of Republican conservatism, launched his national presidential campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, less than twenty years after three civil rights workers were lynched within miles of the podium on which he stood. And when Reagan proclaimed that “government was the enemy”, he was referring to that same federal government that was often the only source of protection for black Americans seeking asylum and vindication in their own country. That dog whistle blew loud enough for white ears in the South and throughout the nation.

It should, therefore, be no surprise that the modern Republican Party, reborn in radical response to the advancement of racial civil rights would be the home of the impending Trumpageddon. It certainly should be no surprise that the political party that turned a blind eye to the clear racist and racial efforts to delegitimize the first African American presidency would serve as the incubator for those would seek to delegitimize the entire apparatus of the federal government.

Republican leaders like John Boehner and Mitch McConnell who refused to extinguish the dark magical thinking that claimed that Barack Obama is a Muslim, or “hates America” or is not even a citizen, cannot be surprised that a master manipulator like Donald Trump could harness this malevolent harvest and turn it into a movement. And now, for good historical reason, Trumpageddon is upon us.

The Republicans are reaping what they have sown.

Wallace Ford is the Chairman of the Department of Public Administration at Medgar Evers College in the City University of New York. He is the host of The Inclusion Show and the author of two novels, “The Pride” and “What You Sow”

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Point of View Columns

Don’t Ask? Don’t Tell?

It is with a sense of wonder that I have watched the continuing debate over whether gay men and women should be allowed to serve in the military while being “open” about their sexual orientation and gender preference.

Opposition to allowing millions of American men and women to serve in the military honestly is difficult to understand except for the obvious homophobic undertones. Morale issues are cited. Presumably the notion is that soldiers in combat who are primarily interested in staying alive, will now be forced to divert their attention from survival to concern about the sexual orientation of the artillery commander who might save their lives.

What is more difficult to understand is how the opponents to gays in the military are willing to obliterate the principle of civilian control of the military. Recent polls indicate that well over a majority of Americans support the concept of gay men and women serving openly in the military. In 2008 American voters elected as President a candidate who unequivocally stated his support for the abolition of the much maligned “Don’t Ask, don’t tell” policy. There would seem to be little doubt that any referendum on the issue would result in a similar outcome.

Nevertheless, the Congress and the Department of Defense have gone through this very expensive polling of the members of the American military to ask how they “feel” about gays serving openly in the military. The charade has continued as Senator John McCain, waving his internment as a P.O.W. like a cloak that is supposed to confer omniscience, suggests that the wrong questions were asked in the poll and that, in any event, the poll results are ambiguous and do not warrant a change in military policy. We should await full clarity on the matter.

To quote Representative John Boehner, “chicken crap”.

A bit of history is in order. Black soldiers served in integrated military units during colonial times, through the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. After that the U.S. military was segregated, even during the Civil War over 180,000 black troops fought for the Union in segregated units.

During World Wars I and II black and white troops were segregated. But in July of 1948 President Harry Truman signed an Executive Order abolishing racial segregation the military.

It is very clear that if President Truman had asked the military leaders for their opinion integration would have been delayed for decades. Future President Dwight Eisenhower as Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in World War II commanded a fully segregated military. He only had black troops fight with white units as an emergency measure during the Battle of the Bulge. And even that life-saving move was opposed by many generals and members of Congress.

But President Truman signed an Executive Order. The order was clear and the military, observing the institutional deference of the military to the civilian government of this country, complied.

During the ensuing sixty years the American military has been a leading institution in promoting racial progress, if not complete harmony.

Think about the America in which President Truman signed this executive Order. In 1948 black men and women were still being lynched. The Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision outlawing segregation in schools was years away and Till, Chaney, Schwerner, Goodman and Evers all thought that they still had lifetimes ahead of them.

The opinion of the members of the military on the issue of gays in the military is not the issue. The duly elected President of the United States, aka the Commander in Chief, has been clear. To continue this charade is pitiful and dishonorable and only serves to further erode the principle of military deference to the civilian branch of the government.

We are approaching a slippery slope. Today it is the issue of gays in the military. Tomorrow it could be whether or not to withdraw troops from Afghanistan (remember General Stanley McChrystal?).

We need to wake up before the Night of the Generals is upon us.

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