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Political rhetoric can damage our country

Posted: December 2, 2016 11:08 a.m.
Updated: December 2, 2016 11:09 a.m.

I pray regularly for our leaders to catch up with the 21st century, and for President-Elect Donald Trump not to follow some of the paths of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Political rhetoric can damage our country. How long will Americans stumble over race relations?

Lyndon B. Johnson, Nelson Mandela, Franklin D. Rooselvelt, evangelicals and the Christian right come to mind.

Roosevelt encompassed the industrial worker and struggling farmer and Keynesian consumer – ordinary citizens without whom a modern economy would falter. He built the New Deal around this image, establishing a minimum wage, social security and the federal rights to organize unions. Those reforms cemented the loyalty of the white working class to the Democratic Party for a generation.

In the darkest moment of the Great Depression, Roosevelt evoked the New Deal and forgot or excluded many Americans, including Black Americans.

When the Great Society came along, L.B.J. tried to make up for that by expanding federal programs serving the poor and by championing the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. 

During the Johnson era the evangelicals and Christian right believed that the country was paying too much attention to the wrong sorts of people – most notably to Black Americans at the expense of the white working class.

The very moment Black Americans were first asserting their right to vote – and voted Democratic in large numbers – the evangelicals and the Christian rights did not accept the inevitable. They believed America was for them and not for the people of color and went and joined the Republican Party.

Their racist views were corrosive to all Americans. There is a line that can be crossed that leads to war among ourselves and we have not entirely healed from the last time that happened.

Americans may feel like we did not have any good choices in our general election, but one decision we all can make is the one that Mandela made upon his freedom. He was willing to put his country’s (future) ahead of his own.

I keep searching the landscape for a Mandela who can lead all Americans away from the precipice we presently stand on.

 

Edward Allen

Camden

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