The sad saga of President-elect Donald Trump versus U.S. Rep. John Lewis may go on for months. Trump has taken a media pounding for his criticism of Lewis, even though the Georgia Democrat threw the first punch in a juvenile hissy fit. Lewis told NBC’s Chuck Todd on Meet the Press that he didn’t consider Trump “a legitimate president,” and added that it would be “very difficult” to forge a productive relationship with the chief executive. In his exclamation point comment, Lewis, badly beaten by Alabama state troopers during a 1965 voters’ rights march, said he wouldn’t consider inviting Trump to come to Selma.
The irony is thick. Even though Lewis spent much of his youth fighting for black Americans’ voting rights, he’s claiming today that the duly elected president who received more than 60 million popular votes and 306 electoral votes is illegitimate. But as Vice-President Joe Biden declared after the Electoral College confirmed the voting results, “It’s over.” Too bad Lewis didn’t get the message.
Trump’s response to Lewis was that the congressman should spend more time fixing the multiple problems in his Atlanta district, not carping about the Republican ascendancy to the White House. Trump: Atlanta is “falling apart,” and “crime infested.” In 2014, Atlanta’s violent crime rate was more than three times the national average.
Looking closely at what’s going on in some specific parts of Atlanta confirms that Trump has a good point. In Atlanta’s Lakewood Heights community, for example, crime rates are high and homes either abandoned or in disrepair. The poverty rate is around 30 percent. Asked about Lakewood, Rev. Houston Wheeler, who has worked in urban development in Atlanta since the 1970s, said, “If you’re making $8 an hour and only getting 24 hours a week, I mean, where can you live?” According to the Atlanta Regional Commission, between 2000 and 2013, poverty in Atlanta’s suburbs had the highest increase of any similarly sized metro region.
A review of Lewis’ congressional actions showed that, during his House career which dates back to 1989, he has consistently supported large increases in foreign-born worker visas, and approved of granting illegal immigrants’ employment authorization as part of President Obama’s proposed amnesty programs. Expanding the labor force adversely affects Lewis’ unemployed and under-employed constituents.
In an interesting footnote to Lewis vs. Trump, the DNC is using their dust-up as a fundraising opportunity. The DNC sent emails to capitalize on Lewis’ attack against Trump. Half of whatever money is raised will go to the DNC, while the other half will go to Lewis’ re-election fund.
No one, including Trump, minimizes Lewis’ courageous record on Civil Rights. But his valiant stand 50 years ago doesn’t automatically make him right today. Lewis won’t attend Trump’s inauguration, and has influenced at least 24 others in Congress to skip the event.
The protests mean nothing. Whether Lewis or others approve of Trump doesn’t matter. Trump will be President of the United States for the next four years, and if dissident Democrats keep it up, he’ll sail through the 2020 election. Lewis and his anti-Trump allies’ posturing puts off Middle America, the very demographic Democrats need to appeal to in order to recapture the White House.
Joe Guzzardi is a Senior Writing Fellow with Californians for Population Stabilization.