John Danforth sees the ghost of George Wallace in the way Trump is constantly trying to divide Americans.
The parade of notable Republicans coming forward and denouncing Donald Trump continues to march on in the wake of the white supremacy violence in Charlottesville, and Trump’s weird attempt to provide political cover to the radicals.
On Friday, former Republican Sen. John Danforth of Missouri, widely regarded as a respected elder statesman within the party, condemned Trump as “the most divisive president in our history,” in a column he penned for the Washington Post.
Danforth then compares Trump to George Wallace, the disgraced, segregationist who served as Alabama’s governor in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Wallace’s first inauguration address was written by a Klansman. Wallace staged independent runs for the president in 1968, 1972, and 1976.
Wallace explicitly appealed to a racist base of white voters and was at the forefront of the political movement that saw southern white voters move from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party.
After losing an Alabama election in 1958 to an opponent who took a harder stance on segregation, Wallace famously told a friend, “I was out-n*****ed, and I will never be out-n*****red again.” In the 1980s, Wallace publicly apologized for his racist past and asked for forgiveness.
“There hasn’t been a more divisive person in national politics since George Wallace,” Danforth writes in the Post.
Trump is always eager to tell people that they don’t belong here, whether it’s Mexicans, Muslims, transgender people or another group. His message is, “You are not one of us,” the opposite of “e pluribus unum.” And when he has the opportunity to unite Americans, to inspire us, to call out the most hateful among us, the KKK and the neo-Nazis, he refuses.
Danforth’s overall plea in the Post is a bit odd in that he seems more concerned with the damage Trump is doing to the GOP (“We cannot allow Donald Trump to redefine the Republican Party”), instead of the lasting damage he my be doing to the country. Still, Danforth’s overall argument — that Trump purposefully divides Americans instead of unites them — is one Republicans need to hear again and again.
An ordained Episcopal priest and three-term senator who boasted a strong conservative voting record, Danforth is perhaps best well-known for shepherding Clarence Thomas through his notorious Supreme Court nomination.
Meanwhile, Gary Cohn, the White House’s top economic official, finally commented on the record about Trump’s deeply troubling response to Charlottesville. “This administration can and must do better in consistently and unequivocally condemning these groups and do everything we can to heal the deep divisions that exist in our communities,” Cohn said in a statement.
Cohn, who is Jewish, stood next to Trump at his infamous, mid-August press conference/shouting match in the lobby of Trump Tower when he announced there “very fine people” among the white supremacist groups that gathered for battle in Virginia.