President-elect Donald Trump didn't take kindly to Rep. John Lewis' (D-GA) assessment of his presidency as "illegitimate," but, since he cannot possibly defend himself on the substance, Trump attacked the Civil Rights hero with insults and racist dog whistles.

This piece was co-written by Shareblue writers Tommy Christopher and Melissa McEwan.

There are many ways President-elect Donald Trump could have responded when Rep. John Lewis publicly stated that he doesn’t regard Trump as a “legitimate” president. Any number of those ways would have been respectful, including silence.

But Trump has publicly asserted that winning should inoculate him from criticism. So he was never going to be silent. It was just a question of how demeaning and objectionable his reaction would be.

On the Saturday morning before the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, we got the answer to that question:

No matter how one feels about the legitimacy of Trump’s presidency, which will be invesigated at bipartisan request, one ought to respect the point of view of a man like Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), who fought and bled for Civil Rights, only to see outside influences meddle in the election on behalf of a candidate who ran an explicit campaign of white nationalism and is now building an administration full of people with ties to white supremacy.

Every American has the right — and the responsibility — to hold the president to account. That Trump disagrees with this most basic premise of vibrant democracy is itself reason to question the legitimacy of his presidency. A president who does not respect the rights guaranteed by the Constitution cannot be trusted to represent the values of the nation.

Further, for Trump to attack a person of Lewis’ stature and patriotism in this fashion, trying to silence him for any reason, and doing so by barking commands about what he should be doing, is an outrage. To then accuse a man who was nearly killed during the Civil Rights struggle of being “All talk, talk, talk — no action or results!” is an overt erasure of Lewis’ place in America’s history, as well as her present.

Trump then makes a thinly veiled appeal to the racial resentments among his supporters by invoking the specter of crime, wrongly assuming that a Black congressman’s district must be riddled with it.

As a matter of fact, Trump’s characterization of Georgia’s 5th District as “falling apart” doesn’t jibe with the fact that Lewis’ district has a higher high school graduation rate than the national or state averages, and is ranked 97th out of 434 on Gallup-Healthways’ most recent Well-Being Index. Lewis’ district was third among Georgia’s 14 districts in the well-being index. The last-place district is represented by Republican Tom Graves.

Trump’s tweets are further proof of his complete inability to control himself, his tyrannical urge to quash dissent, and the bigotry that has suffused his political career since he appointed himself the de facto head of the birther movement to delegitimize President Obama.

It is a rich irony that Trump, who peddled racist lies in order to try to delegitimize the nation’s first Black president, is now outraged that a Civil Rights Hero would, using facts, state his belief that Trump’s presidency is not legitimate.

In a further irony, Trump’s tirade only serves to heighten the historic contrast between himself and outgoing President Barack Obama, who opened Martin Luther King Jr. weekend by designating three new national monuments honoring Civil Rights history. Meanwhile, Trump marks the occasion by attacking a Civil Rights hero.


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