A new election: marching with Martin Luther King Jr.

By Irene Rasmussen, Newport, Oregon

Every few generations, people have a chance to truly define themselves by supporting a great and noble cause.

I am going on 50, yet I have never, before now, felt myself to be in that position. Even my husband, almost 60, was too young to march in the Civil Rights movement with Martin Luther King Jr.. This was a defining moment in American life, a rare chance to stand up and say clearly, for all the world and history to see, what you were, who you were and what kind of country you stood for. It is an honor that doesn’t come around every day.     

When this election began, it seemed that that kind of moment was far away. I was lukewarm about Hillary, and I found Trump ridiculous: a panderer who boasted about “not being a politician” only as an excuse to act twice as badly as a regular politician because, as his aides now say, he doesn’t have that much experience.   

The prospect of filling out my ballot for Hillary didn’t excite me. Trump appalled me. Hillary   has flaws, but she is simply better than Trump on every issue.    Recently, with the shakeup of Trump’s staff and the emergence of new “leaders” in his miserably struggling campaign, this election has changed. It has become a defining moment in U.S. history. It has become that rare chance where the present generation has an opportunity to make its mark, where every eligible voter can cast a basic and crucial vote against bigotry, racism and hatred, and to reaffirm what is best about America.   

What changed? It’s true that from the start, there was a racial and nationalist taint to the Trump campaign. Still, many people, perhaps even Trump supporters themselves, thought he wasn’t really racist. He got   away with his comments about Mexican rapists, American judges with Mexican names, the “Second Amendment people” and how they could reverse Supreme Court nominations. And it got worse.   

Pundits of all stripes expected   a reset, a pivot, or a “new Trump” to emerge in what Mitt Romney called an “Etch-A-Sketch moment.” In the last weeks, we finally found there is no new Trump. He is simply a racist to the core. The choice of Steve Bannon as the new CEO of a makeover Trump campaign sealed the deal.   

Bannon is a wife-abusing white supremacist who ran the “Breitbart” news site, a site that feeds the fears of the ultra-nationalist, conspiracy theory right. In a recent speech, Hillary finally confronted this threat to democracy head on. She warned that this rightwing, hate mongering clique had basically taken control of the old Republican Party. Her point was proved the next day when a number of white supremacist groups tweeted that   they had, indeed, scored a great triumph — in fact were inches from seizing the reins of power.

   Bannon’s “Breitbart” has published articles under headlines like, “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy,” “Would You Rather   Your Child Had Feminism or Cancer?” and “Hoist It High and Proud: The Confederate Flag Proclaims a Glorious Heritage.”   

So this is no longer a choice between a boring policy wonk and a fast-talking billionaire real estate mogul. It is a choice between the legacy of the entire Civil Rights movement — over 50 years of work to eradicate racism in America versus a dangerously ignorant, fact challenged, hate-filled alternative that threatens almost every aspect of civil, religious, and human rights in our nation.   

A vote for Hillary is no longer a second best choice, it is a vote to stand with Martin Luther King Jr. It is a vote you can explain with pride to your children and grandchildren. I will cast that vote proudly.    And a vote for Trump is a vote to take America into the abyss, a vote whose stain you will likely never wash away and never be able to justify.

Newport News Times “Viewpoint”, Friday, September 9, 2016, Page A10