by Rev. Dr. George A. Bates, JD
When President Lyndon B. Johnson said, “We Shall Overcome” as the last line of a speech following the horrible beatings of non-violent Black civil rights marchers on the Edmund Pettus bridge on March 7, 1965, it echoed a resolve from the “head of State” that open racial hostility America will not be tolerated. It was a new beginning for any U. S. President to openly oppose racism in any form. From that day forward the Johnson Administration got passed the 1964 Civil Rights Act, 1965 Voting Rights Act, the 1968 Civil Rights Act for Fair Housing and many more measures to end America’s racism against people of color. The compassion of one dedicated leader of a nation with its many advocates of racial justice including Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, and civil rights activists John Lewis, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Andrew Young, Stokeley Carmichael and many more who urged Johnson to move forward on this great cause.
Likewise some twenty-two (22) years later, Pres. Ronald A. Reagan told Michal Gorbachev to “tear down the Berlin Wall” on June 12, 1987. Much of the free world joined Reagan to urge Gorbachev, the then President of the Soviet Union to allow Germany to reunite as one nation to remove this wall of separation. Approximately two and one-half (2 ½) years later, the German people began to tear this wall down on November 9, 1989, without Soviet opposition intervening! The people of the world united around this cause to make it a reality—all because one man stepped out of the shadows to register his support for the same.
Sadly, the previous President of the United States (POTUS) Donald J. Trump has not been inclined to speak to a cause or movement that unites our citizens for a popular common good. Upon his perusing of the opposing sides at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017, Trump opined that “there were many good people on both sides.” He just could not bring himself to publicly oppose the white supremacist marching with guns against ordinary citizens who were against rallying America in support of racism! He could not grasp the mood of a nation that has been trying to free itself from the tragic racial past of the 1960s. Perhaps, he does not know our history well enough to appreciate the benefits of a united America.
Some have compared Trump’s campaign to “Make America Great” similar to the strategy of Adolf Hitler to brainwash the German citizens of the 1930s into thinking that they were the “master race.” I refuse to believe that Trump is that intelligent and devious enough to formulate a concise theory to brainwash millions of Americans. What I do believe is that he has promoted his beliefs and desires all of his life in selfish ways to completely omit any thought that there are valid opinions to the contrary of him! Trump has lived all his life in a world that did not allow other opinions to defy and defeat him. Hence, his followers are nurtured just like he has been groomed, that is, if you do not agree with him, you are his enemy!
In American democracy, the public has a right under the Constitution to disagree with leadership and voice their opposition. Trump silences all of his detractors with denial and derision and, if you work for him, with termination. Likewise, his followers embrace the same posture that there are no other viewpoints but their’s and dismiss the detractors as lunatics, fanatics, and imbeciles. It was perhaps his lack of understanding of this fundamental trait of American democracy that led to his loss to President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice-President Elect Kamala Harris in 2020! You cannot ignore the “will of all of the people” constantly and expect to remain in the majority. Trump came close to admitting that he was human and had human frailties during the late Summer of 2020 when he murmured that he could have possibly had a better response to the covid-19 virus. He only said it once then he caught himself and returned to his usual self-report card that he has done more than anyone could have done under the circumstances.
No American President in history has allowed the far-right extremist to align themselves with him. The day after the tragedy in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017, David Duke former Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan declared that Trump was their “moral leader.” The press and the President’s critics waited and waited for his vehement denial that he was their leader. It never came!