For all his flaws, Donald Trump has been handed the opportunity to go down in history on the same page as Abraham Lincoln and Lyndon B. Johnson.
The two are, of course, very different Presidents, separated not only by political party, but 100 years of history. In 1862, Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. And 103 years later, Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
To the extent history lurches toward justice in big, widely spaced steps, those were probably the two biggest lurches in racial justice in American experience.
But to all appearances, America is poised to make another big lurch forward. The details are still being worked out, but polls show that 84 percent of Americans support the protests, at least to some degree–a level of agreement rarely seen about anything.
And yet, even today, Trump was defending choke holds as often being “innocent and perfect” and suggesting he was a better racial-justice president than Abraham Lincoln, apparently based on the economic surge that blessed his first few years.
Basically, he was saying that trickle-down economics from the overall boom had reached Blacks, and they should therefore be eternally grateful to him for creating conditions in which some of the short-term wealth from tax cuts, deregulation, and rolling back the environmental gains reached them from corporations and the rich.
There’s a lot packed into that, but you get the idea. My Ph.D. is in economics, and maybe I’ll talk about it in more detail in the future.
At the moment, however, I’m puzzling over how Trump can’t see that the country is poised for one of those giant lurches forward. I can’t figure out what he thinks he’s going to get out of standing in the way of a tidal wave of progress—a wave that if he wanted, he could harness to give himself a place on the right side of history, even if it’s too little, too late, to win reelection.
Maybe it really is just the election. Maybe he really thinks the best way to win reelection is by derailing the tidal wave, in the hope that the resulting chaos (and possible violence) will give him a pathway to personal victory.
If so, the only thing I can say to the protesters is “stay the course.”
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 wasn’t enacted until ten years after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on that bus in Birmingham, Alabama.
Compared to that, events today are moving at warp speed.