5 Images that refute Trump’s attack on Hero John Lewis

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

It began when Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) announced that he would not attend the inaugural of Donald J. Trump because he did not consider him a legitimate president.

Lewis, sometimes called “the conscience of Congress,” emerged to prominence as a very young man in 1963-66 as Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)– of which he had been one of the founders. He organized the large numbers of students active in the Civil Rights movement. The 1963 March on Washington was to some extent his idea.


Since 1986, Lewis has represented the Fifth Congressional District in Georgia, comprising much of Atlanta, including its downtown, and western and southern suburbs.

Trump, of course, could not control himself and tweeted at Lewis,

People are complaining that Trump is attacking Lewis, a close associate of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., on the eve of the latter’s official day. But what difference would that make to Trump? He says racist things every day of the year.

I’ve spoken at Georgia State University in downtown Atlanta, and I think it is very nice. Of course all big cities have some problems, but Trump has mixed up the 5th District with some other inner city. His incorrect assumption that because Lewis is African-American, he represents a slum is incredibly offensive.

midtown_atlanta_skyline Midtown Atlanta skyline, h/t Wikimedia

Actually, some 33% of Lewis’s district is white and 5% is Asian, so that non-African-Americans are nearly 4 in 10.

The median family income in Atlanta is $48,000 a year. It is lower than the recent US national average of $54,000 a year, but not that much lower. It is higher than plenty of great American cities, including St. Louis and Des Moines.

Atlanta’s income levels have steadily shot up during the past few decades. It has one of the biggest Black middle classes in the country. African-Americans are hurt by income equality, however. Trump is not going to make incomes more equal in the US.

Some 90% of residents of this district have a high school education or higher, and 40% have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

As for crime, Atlanta is not one of the 25 cities where the murder rate has increased slightly in the past few years. It should be noted that the murder rate in the US has fallen dramatically since the early 1990s, and the slight increase is some cities is relatively small. Statistics look big when you start from a low base.

This is what the chart for the murder rate since 1990 looks like in Atlanta:

atlantacrime h/t Atlanta Magazine

Far from falling apart, Atlanta has seen housing starts increase by double digits in the past year.

The average sold home price in Atlanta has rebounded from the Great Recession into which Trump’s Wall Street buddies had plunged the country, and is very healthy, as demonstrated by this graph from 2011 through September 2016:

My fifth image riposting to Trump is not a graph. It is a photo of John Lewis on an infamous bridge in 1965.

John Lewis kept being beaten and arrested. He did not back down. He won, and Jim Crow in the law is gone and is itself illegal.

John Lewis declared Jim Crow illegitimate, and after a while it wasn’t there any more. John Lewis has declared the Trump presidency illegitimate.

29 Responses

  1. As far as we British over here on the other side of the pond see it, Trump won the election according to the rules of the American electoral system. The notion Trump was helped by the Russians isn’t supported by hardly anyone over here and on any of the millions of posters on internet forums. True, he didn’t win the popular vote which went to Clinton by some two million votes, but that’s not Trumps fault. He stood for election and set out his stall and won the support of the electorate according to the system. The electoral system in America is stupid of course, but its got nothing on our system over here in the UK. First of all we have an entirely unelected queen as head of state. Our current prime minister who is the head of the government hasn’t received one single public vote for her to be the prime minister. She was handed the job of head of the UK government by a few hundred members of her own party. Our current government is a Conservative one which actually only got about a third of the popular vote, the other two main parties taking two thirds or so between. them. Both the American and the British system of democracy is flawed and yet it is we who go around the world destroying other people’s countries so that we can foist our flawed democracy on them! The covert secret services and shadow government in America seem to all but be plotting a coup against Trump, even before he has take his seat in the white house. Coups brought about in other countries by meddling and direct intervention by the Americans, we British and others. are common enough. It would seem that dark forces who are actually behind this kind of stuff overseas are quite capable of even doing it in their own country. Should the unthinkable happen, then America will go from a laughing stock to being universally despised.” Listen up America, its your electoral system, you chose it and accepted it so stop carping about Trump because he’s not the candidate that some of you wanted”

    • Yeah, what’s the persecution of African-Americans to you?
      When our minorities can’t stand his green light for police persecution anymore and fight back, what will you be saying then? That they’re neoliberals, that they’re the CIA, that they’re part of the global socialist conspiracy? John Lewis? Yeah, he’s an evil imperialist and, as Trump said about the protestors beaten up by his followers, “Maybe he deserved it.”

    • The notion that the “secret government” along with “dark forces” are “plotting a coup against Trump” is laughable.

      Trump represents the powerful economic and military elites in this country. A person who appoints more generals to his cabinet than any previous Presidents, and who has stocked his administration with Goldman Sachs executives, is hardly representative of a threat to the dark forces and secret government that may run the country.

      His economic and military policies are precisely aligned with the interests of these powers, secret or not.

      Unless the “secret government” and “dark forces” you describe are a bunch of socialists and pacifists, that would certainly be news to me, and most Americans familiar with US imperial history.

      But thanks for the chuckle…


      • Of course they were gonna wangle their way in. You could look at The Donald as a lever, or as a Trojan Horse. First they convinced “liberals” to go along with supporting the “moderate” proxies. Now, when that’s exposed…they appear progressive when they decry it; and there the “liberal interventionists” are…holding the bag. I’d hope the Trump team hawks’ll see the light fast [Mattis is for JPOA, right?]; but if they don’t and DT sticks to his cooperation theme…yeah, I could see friction.

    • Don’t worry so, this criticism is freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
      If you want to see nasty, check out Glenn Beck and Fox re President Obama.
      And Russia is not mentioned in Professor Cole’s essay. Again, don’t worry, Russia is a big country that can take care of itself.

    • maybe you should spend more time fixing your government then commenting here about something you dont appear to know/understand.
      nice also to know you personally have verified MILLIONS of comments all in agreement that the pretender received no help from the russians even though it contradicts the CIA and members of your own m-16.
      easy to see how your country got the way you describe if you are an example of it.

    • It’s the biggest lie imaginable. That’s why we might as well have a queen over on this side of the water. Social Security is some big unweldy pathetic thing that needs Wall Street’s help. Meanwhile, they can’t come up with an F-35 pilot helmet for less than $375,000.00.

      Our pols are mere figureheads. I could say corporations are at the helm. More like government contracts or believably useful government contracts.

      ‘In doing this book, I was surprised not to be able to find one manufacturer that wasn’t subsidized.’ Louis Utichelle 12/24/16, Ralph Nader Radio Hour link to ralphnaderradiohour.com

      Needless to say, the subsidization is askew. I’m not a Libertarian, and I do believe in a progressive income tax. But this is all projection. The thing these deficit hawks have always harped on is the thing they’re guilty of themselves. Yes, they’re like figureheads on the bows of those ships that laying out 10 mi long drift nets. They’re like a drunken crew inside some Star Wars “walker” that’s set on auto-pilot to go pillaging for MONEY. The thing is so big, it’s like Jacques Ellul’s technique.

  2. Thanks for this homage and defense to one of the few truly great members of Congress. One or two points that I would add: the man has an enormous lead over the Orange Menace, in terms of moral authority and clout as well as life experience that could not be more different. Mr. Lewis was not given a huge sum of money by his old man to start out in life but was born to share-croppers in Alabama. He did not bully and bluff his way through a big name university or business school but selflessly flung himself into the civil rights struggle. He was one of the original 13 Freedom Riders. As you state, he was a key organizer in the 1963 March on Washington. He coordinated efforts for the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer. He had a prominent role in the marches in Montgomery and Selma.

    On March 7, 1965 he led a group of marchers over the Edmund Pettus Bridge when they were confronted by police. Trained in non-violence, they knelt to pray and were tear-gassed by the police. Lewis’ skull was fractured that day by a night stick, but escaped to Brown Chapel Church, the nearby headquarters, and appealed to LBJ to intervene in the violent situation in the south before he was taken to the hospital. He still has the visible scars from that day on his head.

    He had already been beaten up by the police once before, in 1961 when he tried to enter a whites-only waiting room in Rock Hill South Carolina; he was assaulted by two men who broke his ribs. And he has numerous stories of the violence that he and the Freedom Riders endured in the course of their campaign for racial justice in the South. In Anniston Alabama their bus was fire bombed by the KKK. In Birmingham they were beaten up mercilessly. In Montgomery at the Greyhound bus station he was beaten unconscious with a wooden crate. The Kennedy administration called for the Freedom Riders to have a cooling off period to try and stop the violence; during that time Lewis spent 40 days in the Mississippi State Prison.

    But this is nothing compared to what the Orange Menace suffered and sacrificed in the 1960s and 70s as he went through his own personal Vietnam avoiding STDs.

    And yet it is pointless to urge that the POETUS should feel any shame about this, because he simply has none.

  3. When I think of Lewis I think of the way he undercut Bernie Sanders with black voters by claiming that he never met him during the civil rights movement. That was part of a coordinated attack by Lewis, Reid and Capehart to portray Sanders as a liar about his civil rights record that effectively ended his chances with the black community and guaranteed Clinton’s nomination and Trump’s election.

    I sat in at lunch counters and theaters in Austin, Tx, in 1961. SNCC sent some leadership to Austin the next year. Lewis wasn’t among them so I’m sure he never met me either.

    No one who demonstrated on college campuses would ever claim that they ran the risks or suffered the abuse that civil rights workers suffered on the streets in the deep South. But we were there whether John Lewis, a “hero” who morphed into a politician and Clinton flunky, saw us there or not.

    • So if Blacks aren’t anti-war enough for you, then they deserve to be plunged back into Jim Crow in the sacred cause of Isolationism and anti-imperialism?

    • this is so off topic as almost to be a form of trolling. We aren’t discussing whether Lewis is a mainstream Democrat or whether Bernie had earned any street cred with African-Americans. We are discussing whether downtown Atlanta is a slummy inner city in flames or whether John Lewis has accomplished anything in life.

      • I lived in Atlanta for decades. Always found the blacks to be as you described, middle class. Actually preferred to socialize with Atlanta middle-class blacks over the white middle class in name only whites where I live now. Visited Atlanta inner city a few years ago. It has a lot going for it. Wish I lived there now.

        Trump’s diatribe about Atlanta’s inner city and John Lewis is off base, and this kind of ‘look, black squirrel’ will probably be the flaw that will make his presidency a worthless experiment in populism. Whether the American voters go for a true populist in 2020 or revert back to the failures of elitist liberalism is yet to be seen.

        Trump should not have responded to Lewis’s remarks, and Lewis should have kept his opinions to himself. It is not his place to proclaim a president as illegitimate.

    • yea…your accomplishments..surely rank up to Mr. Lewis’s…if ..if only everyone knew about them!.
      lol..you put new definition to the term self absorbed.

  4. Thank you for facing fear and falsehood with facts; oligarchy/plutocrats won’t let peotus damage their golden geese, so that means lying tweets/rants are smoke/mirror pablum to calm the Citizens. Keep writing.

  5. PEOTUS Trump will be an illegitimate President, selected by a CEO-drenched Electoral College contrary to the popular vote after bringing our national elections to a new low – “lock her up” and instruction on effective pussy-grabbing – Trump is a thin-skinned EMBARRASSMENT to us all.

    PEOTUS biker-gangs, pussy-grabber, watersports is a blithering Twitter-spew of h8 and weaselwords. A President Trump will bounce around the world making “deals” in our name until the ROW discerns Trump is nothing but a Twitter-mouth •••clown and shines him on. Meanwhile, his kin and in-law whom WE DID NOT ELECT will fill his tiny shoes in a freshly fumigated press-free White House. Where a family of color once resided

  6. No matter what one thinks of Lewis’s accomplishments, the claim that Trump is an “illegitamate” is not only wrong, it is dangerous.

    Prof Cole and the MSM press rightly criticized Republicans who claimed that Obama was an illegimate President. It is a right and duty to critcize a President’s views and actions, but questioning his legitimacy because of policy disagreements is dangerously wrong. It threatens the very foundation of our democracy.

    When our side loses under the existing Constitutional rules, we must accept it. Even if the lies and manipulations were greater on one side than the other, our system requires an actively engaged , informed citizenry. If people fail to carry out their duty as citizens, that does not affect the legitimacy of the result. No votes were miscounted.

    Like it or not, Trump was the elected winner under our Constitution. He may be an idiot and he may be wrong on almost all issues, but he is not illegitimate, and it is wrong for a Conressman to claim otherwise.

    • There’s a huge difference between falsely claiming that the president wasn’t born in the country, and pointing out that most voters chose someone else, many millions of voters had been disenfranchised because they lean Dem, the POETUS meets every criterion for someone the Electoral College system was designed to prevent becoming president, he has repeatedly promised to violate the Oath of Office, and is unalterably opposed to our system.

      Obama clearly was the legitimate president. The same can’t be said of this monstrosity.

    • The Constitution is not the only measure of legitimacy. There are intangibles as well. If you do not abide by the norms and deeper social structures and traditions of democracy, nay, willfully break about every one of them (from threatening to jail your opponent to threatening to contest the outcome of the election regardless of outcome, from articulating policy that fundamentally despises democratic values [such as mass deportation, torture and war crimes], to openly encouraging foreign interference in an election against your opponent and questioning essential 1st amendment freedoms, then you abdicate legitimacy.

      But in main I agree that given the situation with the electoral college (as it now stands) that until we can change it we are stuck with it. Btw however, the electoral college originally had greater independence and it was hoped would reject those deemed unfit for the highest office in the land (see Hamilton Federalist 68 where it is clear that it was hoped that the college would reject men who are unfit for high office).

  7. Each morning, I wake up and during the course of checking news feeds, invariably come across the latest blurts from the future Troll in Chief. I try to keep a cheery disposition – no small task given Drumpf’s verbal drive-bys – but nothing so far has triggered as much outrage or contempt for his antics than the attack on John Lewis, a veritable saint of a man who has contributed so much to this nation’s history. And then we have Drumpf, a greedy nasty ignoramus with a political skin as thin as a nano fiber. What a dishonorable louse this man is.

    • Haven’t you heard the progressive ruling? Lewis can’t be a saint because he likes Hillary. Clinton supporters are all war criminals, worse than Trump.

  8. We are indebted to Professor Cole and others making their valid defenses of John Lewis. He deserves them at a minimum. We would be remiss if we forgot the courage he and others showed during the struggle for civil rights in the 1960s. Hopefully, others of similar qualities will emerge if, as anticipated, Trump’s presidency proves to be as disastrous as some people understandably fear.

    Unfortunately, heroic figures are often compromised when they advance in years and ascend in power, especially if they become engaged in politics in Washington, DC. Lewis became a member of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) that has been criticized for its inadequate support for fellow African-Americans in lower economic and social classes. Despite the disastrous consequences for people of color in America that were promoted by the Clintons’ “welfare reform” the CBC was unanimous in endorsing Hillary Clinton for president. Towards the end of the Democratic (sic) primary we learned the Democratic (?) National Committee (DNC) rigged the system in favor of their anointed Queen (of Chaos) while stabbing rival Bernie Sanders in the back. If a charge of illegitimacy could be leveled at anyone during the various elections of 2016 it would be at Hillary Clinton.

    • If he didn’t become a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, what caucus was he supposed to join that was supposed to be more radical in supporting racial equality?

      You might also recall that Trump had his issues in the Republican primaries, his bagman Roger Stone threatening delegates by saying they should be “visited” by Trump people, Trump himself accusing Cruz of being the son of a Castro agent, and finally the shenanigans at the first day of the convention when Preibus maneuvered to create the illusion of unanimous votes to keep delegates from giving speeches about their reservations against Trump. If you think Trump is more legitimate than Clinton, then you must hold most Americans in contempt.

      There’s something deeply broken about the relationship between anti-war Whites and the overwhelming bulk of People of Color, and I would like the fundamental dispute to be exposed so that the latter can pursue their own ideas about what America should be, not your ideas, so that they won’t keep being undermined by Hippies For Trump when they’re not anti-war enough.

  9. Don’t you get it? John Lewis is guided by his conscious – right or wrong. HIS moral compass. It is because he is true to this, regardless of the consequences, that makes him a hero.

    • He may be guiged by his conscious more is he guided by his conscious reliance on his conscience, neither of which our PEOTUS posseses. at least in recognizable form. i suspect that if you scratched tRUMPf’s consciemce you’d find tRUMP corporations lasr profit and loss statement or those tax returns he will not make public.

  10. Actually John Lewis has every reason to claim that Trump’s election is illegitimate simply by reading what the U.S. Constitution says in the emoluments clause which emphatically states that no “Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under as office-holder [in the United States]” is prohibited from accepting “any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State”. Trumps financial debt to China and Russia and various business ventures abroad that definitely create a constitutional crisis from day of of his Presidency. link to theguardian.com

    Read also the commentary by Prof. Laurence Tribe of Harvard Law School who during his 40 plus academic career has established himself as probably the preeminent constitutional legal scholar in the United States.
    link to theguardian.com

    I think the repeated racism emanating from Trump and has shifting group of enablers who had no restraints from comparing the First Lady to a gorilla in heels and justifying “preemptive” precautionary counter-offensives against Muslims (who he conflates with Arabs) and against social groups deemed threatening merely from having a complexion deemed inherently dangerous and threatening raises some important questions. Chief among them is a more robust investigation into whether the incoming administration will be inclined to uphold American federal civil rights laws we have signed that were born from non-violent civil disobedience and immense state-sponsored and vigilante violence in the United States and international human rights principles that we have voted to uphold.

    Rep. Lewis did employ more direct, less measured tones in his comments about Trump than was the case with President Obama during his last week of interviews. I would have preferred that he explain his reasons more expansively, but I think he expressed moral outrage the conduct of a Presidential campaign that founded on lies and spawned a wave of violence based on fake news that continues unabated.

    Yet, I respect Rep. Lewis in his willingness to articulate the dictates of his moral conscience which has served the United States well at great personal cost to himself in ways that few of us would willing risk.

    By this I simply mean to suggest that Rep. Lewis has every moral right to claim that Trump’s elevation to President-Elect was among the most vulgar Presidential campaigns since John Adams was defeated by a cabal led by Alexander Hamilton over not wanting to enter the weakened U.S. against the French in a battle that we would have surely lost. Read the 751 page book, John Adams by the late historian David McCullough.
    link to newrepublic.com

    And even when viewed from the ethically shallow standards exhibited during the electoral victory of Nixon and Ronald Reagan (whose team persuaded Iran not to release the hostages until after the election in a way that undermined President Carter as well as aggravated the trauma of the American hostages for cynical political gain rather than the national interest), the Trump victory has made these unsavory shenanigans seem somehow more palatable in retrospect; and that is no small accomplishment.

    Consider that even during Trump’s first post-election news conference last Wed. he was petulant, dismissive of reporters who asked pertinent questions, continuously contradictory and during the week. And Trumps tweet comparing the CIA and U.S. intelligence community to Nazi Germany was simply outrageous and morally egregious. S, it was no surprise that out-going CIA chief John responded in turn: link to theguardian.com

    Brennan) ethically immoral and politically reckless but Plus,

    Trump has usurped powers that are only accorded to a sitting President by meeting with foreign leaders, blatantly disregarding diplomatic protocol and he is lending great credence that his summit with Putin in Iceland creates some credence to some of the contents of the dossier which John McCain passed on to the President Obama, the FBI and CIA.

    Essentially, Trump and his echo-chamber of xenophobic Muslim-hating, misogynist inner circle have not undergone full Senate confirmation hearings.

    In addition, Trump has recklessly decided to forgo divestment of his financial holdings from his sonsas he had promised and so was rightly was lambasted by the U.S. government’s ethics chief, Walter Shaub because of the conflicts of interest. link to theguardian.com

    Even more troubling is another analysis: link to theguardian.com

    Certainly Donal Trump enters the world’s most powerful position with lower ratings than anyone in recent history and his first 100 days in office –typically the honeymoon period, will be fraught with the kinds of difficulties that will confound and perhaps lead to the most dysfunctional start of a U.S. Presidency in history when we consider that the global dangers that existed during the last 8 years have worsened with even greater alacrity than anyone could have imagined.

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