This past Friday on HBO’s television program Real Time with Bill Maher, I was reminded why I am a proud Democrat. Maher makes me laugh, cringe, grind my teeth and belly laugh all in the span of one hour. I watched Maher last week, as is my wont on Friday nights, and was infuriated he seems to excuse President Trump calling the coronavirus, the China-Virus. He talked about past iterations of naming diseases like the Hong Kong Flu and Ebola because it came from a region near the Ebola River. Mr. Maher seemed to be taken aback that people would accuse Mr. Trump of racism or xenophobia because he used “China” as a prefix to describe the latest world pandemic that has killed to date 20,000 Americans. Nodding affirmatively, disagreeing, applauding and jeering Maher reminded me of just how open is the Democratic tent.
At the tail end of the Lyndon B. Johnson administration and the beginnings of the Nixon administration the Hong Kong flu struck. During the Obama administration, the Ebola Virus wreaked havoc across Africa but created minimal damage in the United States, prior to that in 2009 and 2010 we had an outbreak of the Swine flu that killed approximately 12,000 people. Before you come to the conclusion this is a body count contest, it is not, it is a character contest. Tapes of Richard Nixon’s anti-Semitism were disclosed years after his death. Lyndon Johnson’s habit of tossing around the N-Word in the White House was legendary. Maybe someday the imaginary anti-colonialism that the GOP accused Obama of will surface.
With all their paranoia, racism and novice approach, none of these men were faced with the constant real question of their fitness for office or open disdain for a portion of the American constituency.
I am not naïve enough to believe that American presidents have not rolled the race and fear dice, sometimes coming up craps but many times getting that seven. Woodrow Wilson, George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and Andrew Johnson to name a few.
To believe that Donald John Trump did not put lips to his bull horn and use the phrase China-virus to summon his flock to his big top of red meat is ridiculous on its’ face. It is not necessary to go over his litany of name-calling, race-baiting, misogyny and xenophobia to prove the point. As I listened to Maher make his pitch as he usually does, railing against political correctness, I literally shuttered. Sure, did Nixon, Johnson and others use race as a basis for many decisions, yes, but glimmers of morality shone through when they were faced with right versus wrong. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voter Rights Act of 1965. With dogged opposition from southern Democrats, I am sure the racial invective echoed over the phone and around the Oval Office during the arguments about the party losing the South. Although it is disputed that Johnson verbally lamented “We have lost the South for a generation,” I have no doubts he felt that exact sentiment.