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

The 2000 Pound Gorilla

Last week the George W. Bush Presidential Library was dedicated on the campus of Southern Methodist University. Every living former president and President Obama were in attendance and the ceremonies had the expected pomp and circumstance. It was a momentous day for former President Bush and every speech was gracious and respectful of the moment. But one could not help but wonder at how long the 2000 pound gorilla on the podium could remain silent.

There is something to be said for honoring the position – president, governor, chairperson, commissioner – because it is important in maintaining institutional stability and respect. And it is for that reason that no one could honestly expect the 2000 pound gorilla to be invited to speak. Actually, there were a troop of 2000 pound gorillas on the podium at SMU shielded from public view out of respect for the office that President George W. Bush once held.

But after last notes of “Hail to the Chief” fade away it is important to find out what these gorillas might have said:

Gorilla Number One: The reality of the Bush presidency is that it began with the theft of a presidential election. The only recorded electoral theft that was more brazen might have been the faux election of Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876. In 1876 the accomplice to the theft was the Electoral College. In 2000, the Supreme Court of the United States ratified this electoral skullduggery with one of the deciding votes being cast by a Supreme Court justice appointed by George W. Bush’s father.

This banana republic imitation was harmful and nearly disastrous to the popular perception of democracy in the United States. But the 2000 electoral escapade was the very public beginning of the Republican strategy of advocating voter suppression and the outright theft of elections.

Gorilla Number Two: This gorilla would be accompanied by the ghosts of anywhere between 100,000 and one million dead Iraqis and 4,486 dead members of the American military along with the shadows of 32,226 wounded Americans, many of whom have no real hope of living a normal life. George W. Bush pursued a war of choice in Iraq, what motivated his choice – oil industry interests?, avenging threats to his father, neocon madness? – no one may ever know.

What we do know is that before the first bomb was dropped on Baghdad the United States government had no reliable proof that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Further, the Bush Administration knew that Saddam Hussein posed no threat to the United States. And the Bush Administration knew for sure that Saddam Hussein was not connected in any way to the 9-11 attack on the United States.

Yet, using the gossamer veil of lies and misinformation, President Bush led this country into a war with horrific results – virtually destroying a country that already had enough challenges under the regime of Saddam Hussein, causing the needless deaths of so many Americans and Iraqis, destabilizing the entire Middle East region – that future generations will have to confront for years to come.

Gorilla Number Three: This gorilla would be representing the clear damage to the economic infrastructure of this country that was directly caused by the policies of George W. Bush. Pursuing unnecessary tax cuts while fighting not one, but two unfunded wars is only the tip of the iceberg.

The Bush Administration actively engaged in a policy of creating a deregulated financial marketplace by suppressing oversight so that there was virtually no distinction between Wall Street and a second rate casino. And when the wheel stopped spinning millions of Americans lost their homes, their jobs and their hopes. The collateral damage caused by Bush Administration can be seen in shuttered factories, Americans with graduate degrees competing for part-time jobs at any wage and the continued redistribution of wealth in favor of the most wealthy.

The American way calsl for every former president to have his/her own library. By that standard George W. Bush is entitled to his presidential library.

But just once I would like for that troop of 2000 pound gorillas to have their say.

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