Rep. John Lewis Questions Trump's Electoral Legitimacy
True heroes earn that title from unbelievable sacrifice and selfless dedication to uplifting others. Georgia Congressman John Lewis is a hero, period! His willingness to continue fighting for Civil Rights despite relentless threats on his life, were the actions of a man possessed with heroism. Many are the recipients of the hero label, but few are as deserving as Congressman Lewis. Reverence for Lewis is nonpartisan, nonracial, and intergenerational – he is admired by almost everyone.
In a recent interview with Chuck Todd of NBC News, Lewis shared his skepticism of Trump’s legitimacy as president. Lewis stated, "I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected. And they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton... I think there was a conspiracy on the part of the Russians to help him get elected." As a result, Lewis informed Todd that ‘he does not plan to attend the inauguration, the first inauguration he has missed since becoming a member of Congress.’
Several Republicans and Trump surrogates have misrepresented Lewis’ message. They have interpreted his words to mean, 'the election didn’t go his way, so he’s just taking his ball and going home.' This is plainly ignorant, and an intellectually lazy analysis of Lewis’ preference for civil disobedience. In Lewis' own words, "You cannot be at home with something that you feel is wrong." Folks criticizing Lewis are guilty of dangerously revising history to fit their flawed narrative. Lest we never forget, Lewis was beaten within an inch of his life crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge (Selma, Alabama) in hopes to secure voting rights for black people. Yes, Lewis is a partisan. He does not hide his allegiance to the Democratic Party. But most importantly, Lewis is a man of principle, and he is not required to attend the inauguration of a person he believes poses a threat to everything he fought and nearly died to gain.
His absence will receive much more coverage and send a larger message to the incoming administration than any grandiose speech to the House of Representatives recorded only by C-Span. Lewis is as thoughtful as ever. He is aware that his lifetime of sacrifice and service afford him a unique platform. By admitting to Chuck Todd that he questions the validity of Trump’s presidency, Lewis knows he can facilitate public pressure on Congress to continue investigating Russian interference. If Trump had his druthers no person would ever utter the phrase Russia or hacking again for the next four years.
Arriving at the truth is important. But having a president who accepts the truth and acts on that truth is even more important.
Any perspective explaining the results of the November election that even minutely acknowledge Russia’s interference is perceived as either a slight by Trump or an attempt to discredit his victory. Due to Trump’s thin-skinned, diplomatic averse, reflexive nature, anything short of a disrespectful response would bewilder even his senior staff. But the reaction of Lewis’ Republican Congressional colleagues speaks to their fear of public ridicule from Trump Tower if they fail to tow the line. Sadly, that line is currently directed towards one of the most well respected Civil Rights living legends.
With Lewis being such a universally well-liked political figure, the weight that his words carry is heavy. This reality is not lost on Trump, who recognizes the potential of Lewis’ actions to have a domino affect. As it stands on Sunday, January 15, the list of inauguration boycotters has grown to 24 (Eugene Scott of CNN provided a list, here).
Skepticism regarding Trump’s legitimacy will dog him throughout his time in office. How Trump responds to this criticism will shape the character of his White House, as cabinet members and party leaders will likely adopt his ideology on central issues in order to maintain public uniformity. Since facts have a pesky way of spontaneously resurfacing, Trump would be best served avoiding conflicts with not only Russia, but any country his various businesses may be heavily invested.
The facts, according to the Director of National Intelligence, are Russian president Vladmir Putin intervened in the U.S. presidential election in order to help Trump win. A wise or at least patient politician who intends to govern in good faith, would reply to this evidence by affirming her or his commitment to representing everyone and desire to earn the respect of every American who did not cast a ballot for them. Unfortunately for the U.S., that sort of temperance cannot be divined from Trump’s personality.
Trump likens himself a “counterpuncher.” If his retaliatory methods offend even the highest regarded member of Congress, in this case, Lewis, then the Republican standard bearer should reconsider his methodology. Trump unflinchingly hurls insult after insult to distract from the original area of concern that may have bruised his fragile ego. In spite of Trump’s resilience to accept the reality that Russia hacked and hacked to help him win, the American people can rest assured American heroes like Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) walk the halls of Congress and they have no intention to give up this fight to secure U.S. elections and prevent future interference from foreign enemies.
*Below is a short clip, courtesy of NBC News, with the controversial lines from the interview: