Chuck Todd asked Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) on Meet the Press if he plans to forge a relationship with Mr. Trump. The congressional icon said Mr. Trump makes that difficult. “I don’t see this president-elect as a legitimate president.”
I don’t see Rep. John Lewis as a legitimate voting rights icon.
Don’t get me wrong. Rep. Lewis was as good a guy as any politician gets. Oh, sure, he’s traded on race and civil rights leadership all of his life but we’ve come to accept that from our pols. More than the Nashville sit-ins, more than SNCC, even more than the Freedom rides, Mr. Lewis has associated himself with the Voting Rights Act.
Rep. John Lewis wants to delegitimize 46% of the American electorate and 57% of the Electoral College.
Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law on August 6, 1965 to overcome legal barriers at the state and local levels that prevented black Americans from voting but the landmark legislation does more than prohibiting racial discrimination in voting. It assures that citizens can vote no matter their race, color, or language minority status. Mr. Lewis was not a lawmaker at that time although he was present when the VRA was signed.
And now Mr. Lewis wants trade on his reputation as a standard bearer of voting rights to delegitimize 46% of the American electorate and 57% of the Electoral College.
“I don’t see this president-elect as a legitimate president.”
I analyzed that sentence. Legitimate (and illegitimate) has a precise meaning and John Lewis knows it — he writes laws for a living. Legitimate means “according to law; lawful; valid”; illegitimate means “not authorized by the law.”
In speaking of whether Mr. Trump can be president, the facts are very simple. The president must be a natural born citizen. The president must be at least thirty-five years old. The president must have been fourteen years a resident within the United States. The Electors must meet in their own States; a majority of them must vote by ballot for one person to be president. Mr. Trump satisfied the law. He is legitimate.
It doesn’t matter what you (or I) think of Mr. Trump’s behavior or his ability or his class. He traded on his own history, followed the rules, and won the election. Mr. Lewis traded on the Civil Rights movement history, broke the rules, and lost his own validity.
And now President Trump is about as legitimized as it gets.
An earlier edition noted that Rep. Lewis was not there to craft the Voting Rights Act.
Then-25-year old John Lewis wasn’t in Congress in 1965. I went looking for some way to put him there anyway and found his own statement that he “was looking over the shoulder of President Lyndon Johnson as he signed the Voting Rights Act … into law.”
History.com noted that, “Although the Voting Rights Act passed, state and local enforcement of the law was weak and it was often outright ignored… In 1970, President Richard Nixon extended the provisions of the Voting Rights Act and lowered the eligible voting age for all voters to 18.”
I’ve changed my piece to reflect that.