On Friday, January 13, excerpts from the taped “Meet the Press” interview between John Lewis, the revered Civil Rights Icon and host, Chuck Todd exploded in advance of the Sunday airing. Lewis’ voice was calm and measured when he said, “I don’t see this president-elect as a legitimate president. I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected. And they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.” When Todd asked him what millions of Americans could do who agreed with him, he answered, “Do not be silent. Act!” John Lewis drew on his long history of doing just that. He called action, “ causing some trouble” when he joined the Freedom Riders as a young man at the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement. He survived being dragged off one of the buses and beaten; years later his skull was fractured by state troopers at the Edgar Pettus bridge on “Bloody Sunday”. John Lewis also told Todd that he would not attend the Inauguration on January 20, the first he would ever miss. As of today, he has been joined by 23 other Democratic Congressional Representatives.
Donald Trump did not take long to rebut with a Twitter attack. On Saturday, he wrote two early morning tweets: “John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district which is in horrible shape and falling apart ( not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results.” “All talk, talk, talk —no action or results,’’ he added. “Sad!” It should be noted that his description of Lewis’ Fifth Congressional Georgia District was completely false. The district, which is majority African- American, covers three fifths of the city of Atlanta and includes: parts of wealthy areas like Buckhead; the world’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Not everyone agreed with John Lewis’ characterization of Trump as “an illegitimate president.” However, many commentators on TV Cable programs and newspaper columnists expressed shock that Trump would attack John Lewis just as Martin Luther King Jr. Day approached. Thousands of Americans are coming on buses, trains and cars to protest the Inauguration this Friday, January 20. Millions of Americans will watch with very mixed emotions. Hillary Clinton will attend with Bill and know that she received 2.8 million more votes that Donald Trump. Barack Obama, who gave his memorable Farewell Address last week in Chicago to 20,000 loving, cheering supporters, will be standing beside the president-elect as he takes the oath of office. There is deep irony in Trump’s angry tweets toward John Lewis, since Trump was the originator of The Birther Movment. He played an active part stoking the questioning of Barack Obama’s legitimacy during the entire eight years of his two term presidency.
Ever since November 8, when the elections results were compiled and Donald Trump reached the winning 270 votes in the Electoral College, certain organized activities began, aimed at resisting and fighting Trump. They are reacting to his promises and pronouncements during the long combative campaign. Here are several significant preparations underway:
Cities Vow to Fight Trump on Immigration. Trump declared multiple times, “I will deport millions of illegal immigrants!” He talks about a “Deportation Force” that he will install. Across the nations, mayors and other officials are promising to maintain their policies of limiting local law enforcement cooperation with federal agents. These cities, often labeled “sanctuary cities” include Los Angeles where nearly half the residents are Latinos. Mayor Eric Garcetti has pledged not to cooperate with immigration agents. In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio has also vowed not to cooperate with immigration agents. Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago has declared that it “will always be a Sanctuary City.” Mayor Libby Schaaf of Oakland, California during a protest in November, compared the situation to “conscientious objector status.” She said, “ We are not going to use our resources to enforce what we believe are unjust immigration laws.” Additional major cities include Philadelphia, Boston and San Francisco. All have reaffirmed plans to defy a Trump administration and act as “a bulwark” against mass deportations.
If this opposition takes place, these cities risk losing millions of dollar in federal aid for services like help in fighting crime and running homeless shelters. They are well aware of this possibility, since Trump has warned to block all federal funding if local officials do not cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agencies. Some observers believe Trump may go further, fighting such policies in court or even prosecuting city leaders. His history shows that law suits are his favorite tool in many areas of business and life.
“This is uncharted territory to see if they are just playing chicken or see if they will relent”, said Jessica Vaughan, the director of Policy Studies at the Center for Immigration Studies that supports reduced immigration. “Cities have gotten away with this for a long time because the federal government has never attempted to crack down.” In opposition to this conservative view, Muzaffar Chisti , director of the Migration Policy Institute office of New York Univesity School of Law, said, “Cities may not have the power to give rights. But they have a lot of power of resistance, and that’s what they are displaying right now.” More than 500 counties and cities have some type of policy limiting cooperation with immigration authorities. This information is based on an estimate from The Immigrant Legal Resource Center, an advocacy and legal assistance group in San Francisco and Washington.
Many city leaders are seeking to calm undocumented immigrants’ fears. Churches and synagogues are offering their houses of worship as sanctuaries. In Oakland, Mayor Schaaf has asked local philanthropists to provide $140 million if federal funds are cut, to sustain low-income pre-school programs and meals for homeless shelters. The largest clash will occur in California which has 2.3 million of the country’s 11 million undocumented immigrants. Many are farm workers who have provided food for the rest of the country for generations.
Democratic State Attorneys General Plan Lawsuits. There are ten current and incoming Democratic state attorneys general. They are planning to adopt the Republican tactic of lawsuits against Donald Trump and his administration if there is withdrawal from environmental, health care or financial regulations. This was the G.O.P. tactic against the Obama administration throughout his two terms in office. In Texas, Virginia and Florida, Republican state attorneys general sued dozens of times on Obama Care, environmental and immigration policies in the courts. In an ironic twist, Scott Pruitt, attorney general of Oklahoma, who sued over clean-energy regulations, was just chosen by Trump to head the Environmental Protection Agency.
The Democratic attorneys general have pledged to defend undocumented immigrants and to combat hate crimes they have seen unleashed by Trump’s divisive campaign against Muslims, Mexicans and African Americans. In New York, attorney general Eric Schneiderman, is already investigating Donald Trump over possible violations of New York State law by his charitable foundation. He had successfully sued Trump over violations byTrump University. Maura Healey, Massachusetts attorney general, has joined him in an investigation into whether Exxon Mobil lied to investigators about the threat of climate change. Rex Tillerson, the chief executive, has been chosen to be secretary of state by Trump. Healey has said, “I won’t hesitate to take Donald Trump to court if he carries out his unconstitutional promises.” Finally, California’s next attorney general, Congressman Xavier Becerra, has “dared” the Trump administration to “come at us “ over immigration, climate change and health care. Josh Shapiro, the incoming attorney general in Pennsylvania who turned down a run for the Senate, said, “I believe it to be the most impactful job in government today.”
Epilogue: This past weekend, hundreds of thousands of Americans rallied and marched in large cities and small towns across the country to protest the votes to repeal ObamaCare by the Republican controlled Senate and House of Representatives. Donald Trump called ObamaCare “a disaster” throughout his campaign although it has now brought health care to nearly 90 percent of Americans. We are all left with the moral, humanitarian question: Would a “legitimate president” ever consider taking the historic “right of universal health care” away from over twenty million men, women and children—all citizens of The United States –who have finally gained it?