Assassination, Secession, Insurrection: The Crimes of John Wilkes Booth, Jefferson Davis, and TrumpBreaking News
tags: White Supremacy, Capitol Riots
Many of those fighting for Trump were motivated by a white Christian nationalist ideology of hate—hatred of liberals, Jews, African Americans, and other people of color. Most of that Trumpist mob stands diametrically opposed to the ideals that really do make America great—particularly the simple notion laid down in the Declaration of Independence that, after nearly 250 years, we’ve still yet to fully realize: All of us are created equal. The Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol was but another battle in our country’s long-running race war.
As Rev. William Barber explained just a few days ago: “White supremacy, though it may be targeted at Black people, is ultimately against democracy itself.” He added: “This kind of mob violence, in reaction to Black, brown and white people coming together and voting to move the nation forward in progressive ways, has always been the backlash.”
Barber is right on all counts. White supremacy’s centuries-long opposition to true democracy in America is also the through-line that connects what Trump has done since Election Day and on Jan. 6 to his true historical forebears in our history. Not the other impeached presidents, whose crimes—some more serious than others—differed from those of Trump not merely by a matter of degree, but in their very nature. Even Richard Nixon, as dangerous to the rule of law as his actions were, didn’t encourage a violent coup. That’s how execrable Trump is; Tricky Dick comes out ahead by comparison.
Instead, Trump’s true forebears are the violent white supremacists who rejected our democracy to preserve their perverted racial hierarchy: the Southern Confederates. It’s no coincidence that on Jan. 6 we saw a good number of Confederate flags unfurled at the Capitol on behalf of the Insurrectionist-in-Chief. As many, including Penn State history professor emeritus William Blair, have noted: “The Confederate flag made it deeper into Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, than it did during the Civil War.“
As for that blood-soaked, intra-American conflict—after Abraham Lincoln was elected president in 1860, 11 Southern states refused to accept the results because they feared it would lead to the end of slavery. They seceded from the Union and backed that action with violence. Led by their president, Jefferson Davis, they aimed to achieve through the shedding of blood what they could not at the ballot box: to protect their vision of a white-dominated society in which African Americans were nothing more than property.
Some, of course, will insist the Civil War began for other reasons, like “states’ rights,” choosing to skip right past the words uttered, just after President Lincoln’s inauguration, by Alexander Stephens, who would soon be elected vice president of the Confederacy. Stephens described the government created by secessionists thusly: “Its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery—subordination to the superior race—is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”
In the speech he gave at his 1861 inauguration, Lincoln accurately diagnosed secession as standing in direct opposition to democracy.
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