By Lafe Tolliver, Esq
The above statement was one of the last bitter refrains from a part of the country that was thoroughly defeated and embarrassed during the Civil War. It speaks to a longing, an urging, if you will, of returning to a time of innocence and joy when the South was unencumbered with the weighty issues of resolving the matters of human bondage.
The South, decimated by the economic ravages of the Civil War, saw its free labor pool of Now-emancipated slaves, taking victory laps under the watchful eye of the Northern carpetbaggers and federal government protectors.
The newly-freed African Americans, heady with the intoxicating wine of freedom including freedom of movement and freedom to participate in the American experiment of democracy by casting votes for their preferred candidates, caused the defeated South to scheme to reclaim some of its wounded pride.
That reclamation project, called Jim Crow, was a series of calculated stratagems designed to rein in the freedom of the former enslaved individuals and have them bow again to the yoke of human misery by utilizing both the batons of physical fear of voting and economic penury.
Saving one’s Dixie Cups was a dog whistle to like-minded Southerners and any Northern sympathizers that, “It ain’t over, till it’s over!”
Even when you can jettison the obvious bludgeonings of Jim Crow and successfully transverse the racially tumultuous 1960s and 1970s, too many of America’s collective memory cells still are in captivity to lingering bitterness, resentments and subtle rage against people of color for what they perceive as unfair perks and privileges lavished on the progeny of the former enslaved.
The recent decision by the US Supreme Court gutting affirmative action was joy to many who believed that people of color should not be allowed to obtain deferential treatment even though White America has always enjoyed the lion’s share of the goodies of America, and they were not pre-disposed to sharing any of it.
In the recent history of the GOP, both Bush I and Ronald Reagan engaged in racial demagoguery with the blatant use of welfare queens’ images and Willie Horton ads.
And the whole while, feigning ignorance as to the real intended use of those ads appealing to the racial fears of White America, they noted that if they do not “come together,” those “others” will overrun our institutions.
Almost nothing works better than sustained campaigns of fear and anxiety about those “others” coming across the southern border to take your jobs and invade your pristine neighborhoods.
Or, that those “others” are getting valued college placement seats at highly selected colleges and are routinely able to achieve high economic and plum judicial positions simply because those “others” are non-white.
When for decades you feed a large population of anxious White people, who see their jobs going to China and their wages are stagnant and the evening news is skewered to show people of color rioting in the streets, things, named and unnamed, start to coalesce and organizations are formed that seek to, “Make America Great Again!”
Fear and anxiety have their own dialect of speaking to the grievances, real or otherwise, of people who believe lies that are incessantly told to them that they must fight for their country, or nothing will be left for them and their kids.
Enter stage right: Donald J. Trump. The savior of all things White and the retribution for those who have been crammed into meaningless dead-end jobs; and being told the whole time that it is the others that are causing your problems, but I, Donald Trump can fix it all!
Such a “populist” appeal reverberates in the underbelly of a vexed White America, and it does not take much for a performer, like a Trump, to rile up that dissatisfied base with a constant barrage of lies and half-truths to the point that such an aggrieved white population sees such a rumor monger as having their best interests at heart.
With certain media outlets being favorable to such a rabble rouser as Trump, those outlets made millions off the advertisers, thus showing how you can make millions ginning up the despair and bitterness of that base.
Trump and his ilk could, with impunity, say whatever and his base would do a herd nod in agreement.
How could a con and grifter billionaire capture the will and the wallet of so many GOP members?
Simple. He told a compelling narrative that he was their champion and only he could fix it because he was a stable genius!
To that implausible story line, you add in other malefactors who are guided like moths to a singular light and who also crank out the same lies, day in and day out, and there you have the recipe for what now ails America.
It is not by coincidence that one of the charges against Trump as brought by the DOJ is that The Ku Klux Klan Act, which was initially used by President Grant to fight against the white rampage of hate and bigotry against Southern Blacks, is now being used to show that Trump was indeed engaged in racial warfare against pockets of Black voters in Milwaukee, Detroit, Atlanta, Pittsburg, Phoenix and other places.
The acts and attitudes of the then Klan have resurfaced in disguised forms of gerrymandering and voter suppression laws enacted by so many GOP controlled state houses.
The spirit of the Klan only went away for a moment but to be resurrected by Trump in the dark recesses of too many Americans who call themselves Republicans and who, despite overwhelming evidence, are willing to accept a BIG LIE in the place of proven truths.
The current caustic political discourse and the corrosive atmosphere of lies being given credence and equal standing with truths, is what the upcoming election will determine.
Trump is simply an avatar of those suppressed grievances that he has given permission to come out from the attic and parade around in Congress; and which only causes a deterioration of the institutions that are needed and necessary to provide for an imperfect democracy improving upon itself.
So, the next time you rant and rave against Trump, remember, he represents the tip of the proverbial iceberg for without that base that he has awaken, Trump would still be in New York trying to resurrect his failed Apprentice game show.
Contact Lafe Tolliver at email@example.com