By Oscar H. Blayton
“Good riddance to bad news and the horse he rode in on.”
That’s a saying in the corner of the world where I spent my early youth.
We have rid ourselves of the bad news that was the Donald Trump presidency, but more bad news could ride in on that same old horse.
America will make no real progress unless we ask ourselves how we came to stumble so badly into “the age of Trump” and how we prevent it from ever happening again.
This nation cannot bury its head in the sand and ignore the fact that 74 million Americans voted for Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election despite his dismal failure as a national leader – or even as a decent human being.
What did those 74 million Trump voters expect to gain from four more years of Donald Trump setting the national agenda and steering the ship of state?
With Trump’s disastrous response to the COVID-19 pandemic resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens, it is unlikely that his supporters believed that he would ensure their personal safety.
The Trump presidency wrecked our economy, trashed America’s reputation as a world leader and thumbed its nose at both the international efforts to save the planet from environmental disaster and the need for sober diplomacy to avoid nuclear holocaust.
Donald Trump’s presidency left most Americans poorer, less safe and facing a bleak future of internal strife. So, what were his 74 million supporters voting for when they cast their ballots for him in 2020?
The answer to this question is ingrained so deeply in the DNA of the body politic of this nation that we must cut into the very marrow of our cultural bones to expose the cancer that has inflicted this land for more than 400 years.
When Donald Trump gave his famous “What Do You Have to Lose” speech during the 2016 presidential campaign, he was not trying to convince African Americans why they should vote for him. Instead, he was reminding bigoted whites that they needed to put him in the Oval Office to protect white supremacy.
Donald Trump mounted the horse of racial hatred when he announced his candidacy in 2015 and falsely declared that Mexicans coming to America were drug dealers and rapists. He galloped through the land espousing American exceptionalism while calling professional football players “sons of bit***s” for quietly kneeling during the playing of the national anthem and accusing Black Lives Matter marchers of being “thugs” for peacefully demonstrating against police brutality and the racial hatred he promoted.
Trump’s capacity for spewing racist venom was further demonstrated when he declared that there were “very fine people” among the neo-Nazis and rabid racists whose protests in Charlottesville, Va., resulted in the murder of a counter protester.
Now that Trump has left Washington and the White House has been fumigated, Republican politicians want us to pretend that these past four years never happened. Taking a page out of the old South’s playbook that submerged the historical fact that 11 states mounted a treasonous rebellion to continue to enslave human beings, most of today’s Republican officeholders want to rewrite recent history to exonerate themselves from any wrongdoing.
But the elected Republican officials are just the tip of the iceberg.
No longer constricted by the expected norms of human decency, those 74 million voters who put their support behind Trump, and now comprise the base of the Republican Party, will continue to demand racial, ethnic and religious intolerance in return for their votes. And they will want the LGBTQ community labeled “Enemy No. 1.”
The white supremacy nag Trump rode in on is no more a noble steed than the mounts bearing the four horsemen of the apocalypse who bring war, famine, pestilence and death to the world. Riding atop his white supremacy beast, he more deeply inflicted those four horrors that have always stalked communities of color in America. For Blacks, Latinx, people of the First Nations and other non-white people in America, the realities of our lives are murderous police waging war on innocent men and women, food deserts resulting in empty stomachs, inadequate health care leaving people susceptible to disease and illness and diminished life expectancies bringing untimely deaths.
Even now, white supremacy remains saddled and ready to run. And Trump wannabes like U.S. Sens. Joshua Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas have already tried to mount it.
History has taught us you cannot fix a problem until you admit you have one – and the widespread race-based hatred and bigotry within American culture is our greatest problem.
But armed with rampant denial, whitewashing and gas lighting, and astride white supremacy, the worst of America’s politicians will fight to protect white privilege.
Their disarmament will be neither swift nor easy. The time to begin our resistance is now, or the next storming of the U.S. Capitol may succeed.
Oscar H. Blayton is a former Marine Corps combat pilot and human rights activist who practices law in Virginia.