History doesn’t repeat itself, but a look back is useful when one is disoriented by the insanity of the present political moment.
George Wallace, former governor of Alabama, ran for president in every election from 1964 to 1972. His 1968 campaign was his most threatening attempt to become president. Wallace ran as an unreconstructed segregationist representing a southern social system that forced blacks to the back of the bus, imposed restrictive poll taxes and tests that kept blacks from voting and forced black children into segregated schools where they received substandard educations. Wallace, the race baiter, famously said on the campaign trail, “Nobody is gonna out Niggah me!”. When called a bigot he said, “I love black people, I love white people, I love yellow people.”
I started voting in 1968 and I remember actual people saying they voted for him “because he says what he thinks!” And what he thought could make your head spin: “If any demonstrator ever lies down in front of my car, it’ll be the last car he’ll ever lie down in front of.”
The familiarity of that violence filled rhetoric jerks us back to the present. Trump, at a rally in Cedar Rapids the day before the Iowa caucuses, said:
“If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously, OK? Just knock the hell … I promise you I will pay for the legal fees. I promise, I promise.”
At a Las Vegas rally later that month, he said security guards were too gentle with a protester. “He’s walking out with big high-fives, smiling, laughing,” Trump said. “I’d like to punch him in the face, I’ll tell you.”
Actual people voted for him in November because, “He says what he thinks!” Becoming president gave Trump an opportunity to say “some very fine people” were there at the August rally in Charlottesville where neo-Nazis and Klu Klux Klan supporters marched arm in arm. In a haunting fulfillment of Wallace’s threat, a neo-Nazi marcher drove his car into a group of protesters killing one of them.
Well, yes. He says what he thinks. Isn’t that the problem? In doing so he feeds a sometimes violent and widening political division. And he reveals to the world the toxic nitwit that he is.
Long Prairie, MN