Monday, March 14, 2016

The New George Wallace?


I devoted space yesterday to Donald Trump -- a man whose pronouncements are not just untrue but hateful. I did not intend to return to him this morning. But, having read Michael Harris' column today at ipolitics, I once again return to a loathsome subject.

Harris makes the point that there are several disturbing parallels between the late governor of Alabama and presidential candidate and the present blowhard:

Wallace’s campaign was thinly disguised as the protection of states rights. In fact, it was a bigoted rejection of civil rights for all Americans, and a circling of the wagons around racial segregation. It was Wallace who infamously said “If some anarchist lies down in front of my automobile, it will be the last automobile he will ever lie down in front of.”

Fast forward to Donald Trump. There is an eerie echo of Wallace’s violent and incendiary demagoguery. Trump has not only encouraged his followers to “knock the crap” out of anti-Trump protesters at his rallies, he also promised to pay the legal bills for anyone who assaulted his detractors.

There is another comparison between George Wallace and Donald Trump. One of the important areas of support for Wallace back in 1968 was extremist groups like the White Citizens’ Councils. Though he did not recruit them, neither did he reject their support.

Sound familiar? When he isn’t quoting Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, Trump has been tacitly accepting the support of people like David Duke, a former grand wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

Both candidates also ran on anti-Washington, pro-law and order platforms. Wallace sneered that U.S. foreign aid was “like throwing money down a rat hole.” He never missed an opportunity to invoke the police as the proper answer to the “anarchy” of the anti-Vietnam war movement.

Similarly, Trump routinely portrays ‘Establishment Washington’ as the downy nest for fools, chokers, losers, and “horrible” negotiators who have sold the country down the river. He wants to wall out Mexicans as rapists and criminals, and ban all Muslims from the United States because they “really hate” America.

At the end of his life, Wallace admitted his mistakes and asked forgiveness -- particularly of African Americans. Somehow Trump doesn't seem capable of that. God help the United States if George Wallace's ghost -- in his fire breathing prime -- is elected president.


Lorne said...

I wonder if anyone is going to demand substantive policy pronouncements from the blowhard, Owen. So far he seems to have gotten a pretty easy ride.

On another note, ad disturbing story in today's Star shows that Trump's support is not limited to the measurably stupid or disenfranchised:

Anonymous said...

I think what we're witnessing south of the border may be construed as driven by attitudes as old as the American Revolution itself. When the idealistic constructs of the Revolution are stripped away, what's left is a violent overthrow of government. Americans have endowed it with religious symbolism akin to the story of the Exodus out of Egypt into the Promised Land. I think it became the spiritual justification for further violence and conquest, the American suspicion of government, and the cult of the individual - particularly of the "rugged" individual who lived and thrived outside the limits of society to the benefit of the common man. I realize my thinking likely seems "kooky", and so won't belabour it with could be tedious comparisons to the Trump phenomenon.

Owen Gray said...

The Republican Party has been a hive of negative energy for decades, Lorne. I must admit I was intrigued by this passage:

She became devoted to Trump after she watched a Barbara Walters ABC special in the fall which showcased his loving family. Her mother was born in Nova Scotia, and her relatives there now think she is crazy.

“I told them I’m not real pleased with Justin Trudeau,” she said.

Perhaps there's something in the water . . .

Owen Gray said...

I don't think what you say is kooky at all, Anon. There was always an ugly side to the American Revolution. It was the same ugliness that burned witches in Salem. That's why so many United Empire Loyalists settled here.

The Mound of Sound said...

I can clearly recall how, as a youngster, I recoiled at George Wallace, thinking him the most evil man in the United States. Who can forget the photos of police in riot gear setting their dogs on unarmed, peaceful black protesters? I can also remember the relief I felt at seeing US Army and National Guard troops dispatched by Kennedy to the Deep South. What might have followed had Kennedy elected not to intervene? To think that all of this has happened in our lifetime, Owen, only to see it surface again. It's certainly disheartening.

Owen Gray said...

I remember Wallace standing in front of the entrance to classrooms at the University of Alabama, Mound, and proclaiming, "Segregation then, segregation now, segregation forever." I had hoped those days were long gone.

The Mound of Sound said...

How did this ugliness that, for decades, we assumed was safely behind us spring back to life so suddenly?

Owen Gray said...

I've been thinking about that, Mound. Perhaps it never really went away. It just became unfashionable. So those who held to its central "principles" learned to talk in code -- the kind of code that Lee Atwater used when he ran George H.W. Bush's campaign:

Trump has dropped the code.