If Donald Trump expects to be President, he’ll get there without the help of the New York Times. In an unusually blunt slap at Trump titled “Donald Trump and Reconstruction-Era Politics,” the paper of record doesn’t mince words in its characterization of who Trump is and what he stands for:
Donald Trump’s flirtation with the Ku Klux Klan should come as no surprise. He has functioned for years as a rallying point for “birthers,” conspiracy theorists, extremists and racists who are apoplectic about the fact that the country elected a black man president. These groups have driven the Republican Party steadily rightward, helping to create a national discourse that now permits a presidential candidate to court racist support without paying a political price.
Brent Staples, writing for the Times’ Editorial Observer, likens this moment in time to that directly following the Civil War, when the fury of defeated Southerners morphed into the form of the Ku Klux Klan as a virulent racist backlash emerged in Southerners’ enraged response to the freeing of African-American slaves, and particularly to seeing African-Americans, who only a few years ago were property to be sold, beaten and raped at will, instead lining up to vote. We’ve seen the exact same thing come to pass in response to the election—and re-election—of Barack Obama. Like the old Southern states, beaten and seething at their defeat, the same racist reaction to Obama is driving what is becoming a heedless “mob mentality" in support of Donald Trump and the racism, coded or blatant, that he channels. And the Times points out this is sadly all too typical a scenario in the so-called United States of America:
The Southern states subsequently wrote black citizens out of their constitutions and erected a system of civic apartheid, enforced by mob rule. The Southern fixation on denying African-Americans the right to vote was a direct response to the rise of black political power during Reconstruction. A similar backlash erupted during the modern civil rights movement.
Fast forward to the election of Barack Obama and what do we see? The same backlash, in the form of voter suppression laws and the resurgence of militia and anti-government groups, all of whom if you scratch the surface prove to have one thing in common—their pathological hatred for a black President. And so we’ve come full circle, yet again aided by a racist-dominated Republican Party and now its proxies on the Supreme Court:
Reconstruction-era talk re-emerged after Mr. Obama was elected in 2008. Tea Party supporters and others responded to the extraordinary turnout among black voters by contending that the election had been “stolen.” Since then, most of the states that had the highest levels of black turnout have passed laws making it more difficult to vote. A 2013 study from The University of Massachusetts Boston concluded that these laws were debated and enacted in a “highly partisan, strategic and racialized” process.
That “highly partisan, strategic and racialized process” of denying African- Americans the vote was carefully laid out years ago by none other than the current Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and reached its apotheosis in the Court's striking down key provisions of the Voting Rights Act in June of 2013. Within 24 hours of that decision, five states had moved to institute voter suppression laws calculated to prevent or hinder African Americans from voting. What racist wouldn’t feel validated and empowered when the highest Court in the land blithely proclaims, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, that racism is just a thing of the past?
Trump’s candidacy is simply tapping in to the same age-old resentments that have riven this country for over 150 years, now newly clothed in the guise of a reality-TV creation, viewer-friendly to the masses. And while Trump himself may be a shallow, opportunistic clown, the emotions he deliberately stokes—envy, resentment and hate, are among the ugliest and most toxic that Americans have ever demonstrated:
This is the backdrop against which Donald Trump blew a kiss to the white supremacist movement during a television interview by refusing to disavow the support of the white nationalist and former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. Republican Party leaders in Congress wagged their fingers and delivered pro forma denunciations. What they need to understand is this: Racial hatred is a threat to the country and their party’s leading candidate is doing everything he can to profit from it.
There is no “Bernie” or “Hillary” anymore in this election. There is only the evil that Trump and his followers stand for and the willingness—or lack thereof—of Americans to put it behind them once and for all.
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