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Vivian Malone Jones simply wanted to register for her first semester of college classes, an experience all of us have had. When she arrived on the steps of the registrar’s office, however, a towering man blocked her entrance and proclaimed “segregation then, segregation now, segregation forever.” This was the University of Alabama in 1963, nearly a decade after the Supreme Court’s landmark “separate is inherently unequal” ruling in Brown v Board of Education. The man blocking Vivian from becoming the first African American to ever enroll was not an unknown protestor, not a leader of a white supremacy movement, but instead the most powerful man in the state: Governor George Wallace.
Now, a reasonable person would assume President Kennedy needing to mobilize the National Guard just to allow a 21-year-old African American to register for class would likely be the end of Governor Wallace as a public official. Unfortunately, from a federal standpoint, it was just the beginning. Wallace proceeded to run for the nation’s highest office not once, not twice, but four total times.
In 1968, perhaps his most serious bid for the White House, Wallace was asked about protesters holding rallies against his candidacy: “If any demonstrator ever lays down in front of my car, it’ll be the last car he’ll ever lay down in front of.” At a campaign event in his home state of Alabama, when asked about federal desegregation: “I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” Wallace, even while running for President, repeatedly used the “N-word” along with a bevy of racial slurs aimed at African, Native, and Asian Americans. Perhaps not to be outdone, running mate Curtis “Bombs Away” Lemay, a retired General, insisted after suggesting the use of a nuclear weapon in Vietnam to promote “efficiency:” “There are no innocent civilians. It is their government and you are fighting a people, you are not trying to fight an armed force anymore. So it doesn’t bother me so much to be killing the so-called innocent bystanders.”
Now, does any of this sound like Donald Trump? I certainly don’t think so, but Rachel Maddow says they’re “so much alike it’s scary.” The New York Times claims “Trump owes George Wallace” for apparently making his style of campaign possible. The Daily Beast has already established Trump “as the GOP’s George Wallace.”
But how exactly? Sure, Donald Trump is loud, he’s obnoxious, he’s so pompous he can become intolerable, but I guess I missed when he advocated for nuclear war, referred to anyone by derogatory names rooted in hate, blocked innocent children from attending school, or vowed to literally kill peaceful protestors.
Trump, without doubt, is not my choice for President, but what he is is an American citizen, without a felony, over the age of 35, with the requisite signatures and paperwork allowing him to run for the nation’s highest office. What he is doing is an exercise of his constitutional rights, and the central basis of our democracy. Yet, what is happening to him is absolutely unprecedented.
While the media has lambasted him (on both sides of the political spectrum), equating him to one of the most divisive and hateful men in modern history (George Wallace), protestors have gone to lengths unlike anything any serious candidate has faced in our lifetimes, literally making attending a Trump rally impossible, rushing the stage as he speaks, and prompting physical altercations with even the elderly supporters of Mr. Trump. Hacker group “Anonymous” has now joined the “fight,” vowing to hack and release the personal information of not only Mr. Trump, but his family and associates.
If Trump manages to survive the media driven onslaught, he still may not become President, as just this week the Washington Post floated a theory that the electoral college could vote against Trump, as state officials can in theory handpick state delegates, that are not explicitly bound constitutionally to follow the popular vote of any given state. This has not even been considered in the last century (remember, though Gore won the popular vote all states sided with the candidate chosen by majority in their respective state, Bush won due to the assigned delegate totals of his secured states, not due to rogue delegates) and can best be understood in 1824, in which Andrew Jackson was denied the Presidency despite an 11% win over John Quincy Adams, in what is still considered one of the most corrupt political “bargains” in American history.
Yet, here we are, almost two centuries later and stuck in reverse. This is the United States, the world’s greatest federal republic, rooted in democracy and the will of the people. Or so we say. I will not be voting for Donald Trump, nor would I advocate any of you doing so. But if Mr. Trump is democratically elected, I sincerely hope he is our next president, not for the good of Mr. Trump, but for the preservation of our democracy, and out of respect to our exceptional citizenry, which apparently some of our “leaders” have forgotten.
In 1972, during his third presidential campaign, George Wallace was shot four times in the chest and abdomen. One of the bullets lodged in his spine, requiring five hours of emergency surgery, and rendering him paralyzed for the rest of his life. I sincerely hope the largely media provoked escalation of violence, “protests,” extreme rhetoric, and divisiveness does not result in such a disgraceful action, nor December 19 serve as our true “election day,” as violence and or the undermining of the American people will do more harm to our democracy than any aspect of a Trump presidency.
If he wins, I hope he is given every chance to “make America great again.”.
Image via YouTube