LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Reflections on the Trump effect

I am troubled by the difficulty that the 45th president appears to be experiencing with achieving the ultimate goal of the new administration: “to make America great again.” I am in full agreement with the recent declaration made by a longtime member of Congress that “our government is in unbelievable turmoil (and) this problem is not a Democratic Party issue. It is not a Republican Party issue. This is an American struggle for the preservation of our democracy.”

I followed the Republican campaign and election with almost as much enthusiasm as I had for the election of our first (and probably, for the remainder of my lifetime, the only) black president, Barack Hussein Obama. I will always be proud to have been in 2008 among the thousands of people in Washington to witness this historic inauguration. President Obama’s administration was scandal-free, his family life, especially as a father-figure model, was remarkable, and his comportment was truly presidential.

President Obama accomplished much for his country despite the oppositions that he faced from almost all the Republicans and, sadly, from some of his own party members who refused to cooperate with his efforts to sort out the mess that he inherited from his predecessor and the unforeseeable social events of his administration (school shootings, terrorist attacks, etc.). He was not without some faults, but he did not claim to be infallible, as does his successor.

Some of us older folk are technologically challenged when it comes to smart phones, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc., and the nonstop proliferation of petty rebuttals and Executive Orders is overwhelming. The promise of making America great again sounds very good, but it is not a top priority for many of us. We are worried about the costs of medical care and nursing homes, taxes, reverse mortgages, and being financially secure enough to retire with dignity.

We need stability for our remaining years. The president will, apparently, rely heavily on the Twitter feeder, the issuance of Executive Orders and his uncanny ability to deflect the public’s focus from issues of primary concerns to topics of sensationalism. I have, therefore, attempted to take a closer look at what are for me two very important topics – public education and racism.

As a retired teacher and administrator for a major public school district in New Jersey, I am troubled by the appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of the Education Department. Seemingly opposed to the principle of public education, Ms. De Vos, judging by her “off the wall” performance at the confirmation hearings, is sorely lacking in the credentials to fill this very important government position.

A strong supporter of private education, Ms. DeVos appeared, in her responses to specific questions by Senate members, to have very limited knowledge about the major aspects of public education. She has stated publicly, she’d “be fine if we could ditch the Education Department.”

This does not bode well for many children, especially those in inner cities, who may not have access to charter or private schools. Ms. DeVos has yet to outline priorities for the Education Department, but it is very clear that she is determined not to grow the federal role in education, perhaps even in the area of school choice. Democrats and Republicans alike were understandably baffled by the president’s recommendation for this Cabinet position, so much so that Mike Pence became the first vice president in U.S. history to cast the tie-breaking vote for a Cabinet nominee since Henry A. Wallace had hs confirmation tie broken by Truman in 1945.

Will the appointment of Betsy DeVos help to make America great again? This seems a tad doubtful.

I share the belief of many Americans that race relations will get worse under President Trump, according to a March 2017 poll by McClatchy-Marist. Additionally, the southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit legal advocacy organization specializing in civil rights and public interest litigation, observed recently that, from the start of his presidential campaign, Donald Trump’s rhetoric has inspired political violence. Our president has declared to reporters that he is “the least racist person you’ve ever encountered.” But his record from the 1970s is in direct contrast to his claim.

• In 1973, the U.S. Department of Justice sued the Donald Trump Corporation for refusing to rent to black tenants.

• In 1989, Donald Trump placed an ad in local newspapers demanding that the death penalty be resurrected as punishment for the Central Park Five, one Latino and four black teenagers, who were accused of attacking and raping a jogger in New York City. Because there was no DNA evidence to support the accusations, the convictions were overturned – bit only after the innocent young men had spent seven to 13 years in prison.

• Donald Trump was at the forefront of the rumor that the nation’s first black president was not born in the United States, going so far as to send investigators to Hawaii to look into Obama’s birth certificate. Did this false allegation have racial overtones? One can assume that it did.

• Early in his political campaign, Donald Trump called Mexican immigrants “criminals and rapists” who are bringing crime and drugs to the U.S., and proposed building a wall to keep these immigrants out of the U.S. Even federal judges of Mexican descent were considered incapable of performing their assigned responsibilities simply because of their heritage.

• To cement his interest in the support of minority votes, during a campaign stop in Redding, California, Trump pointed out a black man in the crowd and said, “Oh, look at my African-American over here. Look at him.” This is a clear reminder of the pre-1865 years, or even the period of Reconstruction, in the history of this great nation.

• In another effort to attract black voters, Trump asked: “What the hell do you have to lose” (by voting for me) “because your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed.”

• Discrimination against black people has been a pattern in his career, according to a 1991 book by John O’Donnell, a former president of Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City. Mr. Trump described his black casino employees as “lazy” and “it’s probably not their fault because laziness is a trait in blacks. I believe that it’s not anything they can control.”

• What I have found particularly offensive was Donald Trump’s attack on John Lewis because of his expressed opinion that Russia’s alleged hacking of the election made Trump’s presidency illegitimate. Congressman Lewis is a longtime member of Congress whom Senator John McCain described as one of the most respected men in America because of his lifetime record of civil rights work.

It would appear that today, even some members of the Republican Party are beginning to question the legitimacy of the leader of the party.

Will President Trump succeed in fulfilling his campaign promise to “make America great again”? That remains to be seen. Perhaps, when the dust finally settles and his administration takes on the task of really providing a stable government, we will be able to make an informed decision. As I said earlier, this, too, seems to be a tad doubtful.

I am aware that these comments may elicit a variety of responses and/or rebuttals, and I am OK with that. Freedom of expression is one of our constitutional rights. As the saying goes, “This is my story and I’m sticking with it.”

Lawrence E. Hampton
Dover

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