Donald Trump, historical ignoramus | Editorial

Rep. John Lewis questioned the legitimacy of Donald Trump's presidency, so the president-elect, demonstrating the impulse control of a preschooler, tweeted a disparagement.

He used racist code by suggesting Lewis's district outside Atlanta was "crime-infested" and "in horrible shape," which is hardly the case, and concluded that the congressman was "all talk talk talk - no action."

This, of course, would be funny if it weren't so fatuous, and it serves as more evidence that Trump suffers from a historical amnesia that is unforgivable in an American president.

At 20, Lewis was beaten and thrown in jail countless times during the sit-ins that ultimately ended lunch counter segregation in Nashville.

At 21, his Freedom Riders were met by a mob in the Montgomery Greyhound station, where he took a wooden crate to the head and nearly died, all in the cause of integrating buses throughout the South.

At 23, he was Martin Luther King's warm-up act on the Washington Mall, along with nine others who have passed into legend, so he remains the last, best authority on whether the dream still lives.

And at 25, his skull was fractured by the club of Alabama State Trooper across the Edmund Pettus Bridge as he walked arm-and-arm with King into history, a price Lewis willingly paid to secure voting rights for millions of Americans.

It wouldn't surprise anyone if Trump was unaware of any of this; clearly, he didn't seem to know Lewis's resume as he thumb-typed his disproportionate response. That's not to say Lewis was right: He told NBC that he cannot regard Trump as legitimate because "the Russians participated in helping this man get elected," and there existed a "conspiracy on the part of the Russians and others" that contravened "an open, democratic process."

It's hard to tell whether that's coming from pain or partisanship, but it hardly matters.

The presidency is legitimate, because there are no do-overs in national elections. It's not inaccurate, however, to call the election itself tainted - whether it be by Russians or the FBI or an archaic electoral system, depending on one's level of skepticism.

And certainly, those who have such doubt are grateful that it took a man of Lewis's courage to float this narrative, however awkwardly.

So he will pass up the inauguration, and more than 30 members of Congress will join Lewis on the sideline. They do this because this son of sharecroppers is an authentic American hero, one who represents the greatness of this country and symbolizes a movement - with all the turmoil, the courage, the fortitude, the passion.

It is all there, in one indomitable man.

Trump is a legitimate president, but this step-on-the-rake moment exposes two fundamental weaknesses. One is that he is blind to what Americans see clearly - that if you value social justice, John Lewis is the last redwood.

The other is that with so many battles on the horizon, Trump still hasn't a clue as to which ones are worth fighting. And that is as dangerous as his historical ignorance.

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