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What happened the last time a President chose America's enemies over its friends

Donald Trump likes to compare himself to Andrew Jackson, but the Andrew he really resembles is Andrew Johnson. What t...

Posted: Jul 27, 2018 1:36 PM
Updated: Jul 27, 2018 1:36 PM

Donald Trump likes to compare himself to Andrew Jackson, but the Andrew he really resembles is Andrew Johnson. What they have in common are delusions of personal grandeur and a tainted ascent to the presidency. Trump was elected by a minority of the American electorate, with help from the vagaries of the Electoral College system and from considerable Russian interference.

Johnson became president thanks to an assassin's bullet. While Johnson immodestly compared himself to Jesus and Moses, Trump claims he is the best at everything, even boasting recently on Twitter that his popularity among Republicans exceeds that of Abraham Lincoln.

Indeed, pundits have likened today's partisan divisions to those of the Civil War era. But they more closely resemble the politics of Reconstruction, the period after the war when for the first time in history, an American president, Johnson, was impeached by the House of Representatives.

But the resemblance between the two men goes deeper. Johnson's white-supremacist views were blatant and his policies precipitated a constitutional crisis that put the President at loggerheads with Congress and his own party, the Republicans.

(Remember that everything you know about Republicans and Democrats today should simply be flipped for the 19th century. The Republican Party then was the liberal party of anti-slavery, big government and Lincoln. The Democrats were the party of white supremacy, Southern slaveholders and states' rights. In the 20th century, after the New Deal and civil rights movement, the parties exchanged ideological roles.)

When Johnson became president in 1865, he jeopardized the Union victory and the Republican platform by issuing wholesale pardons to former Confederates and recognizing Southern state governments with repressive "black codes" that pushed African-Americans close to a renewed state of slavery. Leading Republicans in Congress pushed back, enacting civil rights for African-Americans, bills that passed over Johnson's vetoes.

That precipitated a constitutional crisis. Johnson took his case to the people, Trump style, during the 1866 midterm elections. He played the race card, arguing that giving African-Americans rights would weaken whites' rights. He called his political opponents traitors, even leading members of his own party.

Trump works from the same playbook. He has called white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, "very fine people," has viciously attacked President Obama, Hillary Clinton, the United States government and our European allies, and cozies up to Russian President Vladimir Putin. We have yet to see if the electorate will deliver a stinging blow to Trump as it did to Johnson in 1866, paving the way for the Reconstruction constitutional amendments and laws that enfranchised black men.

Congressional Republicans in the 1860s, tempered in the fire of the Civil War, put their country before a traitorous President. They first passed the Tenure of Office Act of 1867 to protect Republican Cabinet members and office holders from Johnson. When Johnson violated the law by firing Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, congressional Republicans drew up articles of impeachment against him.

Congressional Republicans today, in contrast, have not lifted a finger to protect Justice Department officials and special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation from the threat of interference by Trump. In fact, they have aided and abetted the Trump administration's undermining of both.

Johnson scraped through his impeachment trial by one vote in the Senate, but for the rest of his term he was a lame duck, repudiated by his party and country. Republicans replaced him with the victorious Union general, Ulysses S. Grant, in the presidential elections of 1868. Grant was more committed to black rights and helped stamp out the Ku Klux Klan in the reconstructed Southern states.

Republicans today show no inclination to rebuke Trump for his outrageous conduct. Only those on the verge of retirement, like Sen. John McCain, have issued strong condemnations. Others have simply voiced disagreement rather than taken any action. This is rich from a party that demonized the Soviet Union during the Cold War and infringed on the rights of American citizens in the McCarthy era, the real witch hunt of modern American politics. Meanwhile, Russian agents allegedly worked to infiltrate the National Rifle Association and the evangelical right.

The Republican Party, like Southern slaveholders of yore, is rapidly becoming an anti-democratic force willing to sacrifice the country, democratic institutions and the sanctity of the electoral process to protect its political power and enact its reactionary political and economic agenda. We can only hope that it, like John C. Calhoun, the philosopher of slaveholders and champion of minority rule, will be consigned to the dustbin of American history.

Today, as the party of Trump traffics in nativism, racism, archaic views of women's and gay rights, with political and economic policies lifted from Gilded Age robber barons, it is useful to remember the words of another, far wiser Republican.

"When it comes to this," as Abraham Lincoln put it in a famous rebuke to anti-immigrant nativists of the 1850s, "I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty - to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 947918

Reported Deaths: 15377
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1291181990
Lake635721103
Allen53899761
Hamilton44082449
St. Joseph42122590
Elkhart33803491
Vanderburgh30574449
Tippecanoe26915251
Johnson23727418
Hendricks22410342
Porter21832347
Clark17562231
Madison17492385
Vigo16302285
Monroe14545191
LaPorte14389239
Delaware14183222
Howard13971273
Kosciusko11498135
Hancock10935166
Warrick10737178
Bartholomew10635170
Floyd10514208
Wayne10077226
Grant9213204
Morgan8928160
Boone8463111
Dubois7791123
Dearborn769490
Henry7691133
Noble7466101
Marshall7409128
Cass7219118
Lawrence7026153
Shelby6647111
Jackson661386
Gibson6190107
Harrison609386
Huntington604495
Montgomery5853105
DeKalb581091
Knox5535104
Miami548888
Putnam543268
Clinton537465
Whitley529354
Steuben501768
Wabash488692
Jasper483861
Jefferson474492
Ripley457777
Adams446068
Daviess4231108
Scott409165
Clay394957
White393858
Greene393392
Wells389884
Decatur388797
Fayette378578
Posey362341
Jennings356056
Washington334747
LaGrange325175
Spencer321136
Fountain318455
Randolph317190
Sullivan309449
Owen287064
Starke282864
Fulton280454
Orange277859
Jay257038
Perry254152
Carroll245229
Franklin242838
Rush237030
Vermillion235050
Parke221420
Tipton212055
Pike211740
Blackford170534
Pulaski168551
Crawford147318
Newton145845
Benton143916
Brown135846
Martin130217
Switzerland126910
Warren115616
Union98511
Ohio80511
Unassigned0482

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1385749

Reported Deaths: 21820
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1538881574
Cuyahoga1358332341
Hamilton987081326
Montgomery679671161
Summit568451051
Lucas51531869
Butler48000663
Stark42232983
Lorain32046539
Warren30404338
Mahoning27463643
Clermont25990297
Lake24809422
Delaware22566147
Licking20767246
Fairfield20730223
Greene20611275
Trumbull20257516
Medina20074290
Clark18170332
Richland16680236
Portage16389231
Wood15926209
Allen14333261
Miami14018261
Muskingum12927155
Wayne12185244
Columbiana11980242
Tuscarawas11204271
Marion10908150
Pickaway10606129
Scioto10531127
Erie9864171
Ross9612177
Lawrence8934125
Hancock8603143
Ashtabula8474187
Geauga8251156
Belmont8236188
Jefferson7691175
Huron7537131
Union742651
Washington7380126
Athens709365
Sandusky6963135
Darke6875137
Knox6812122
Seneca6519137
Ashland6051115
Auglaize595388
Shelby5820104
Brown575372
Mercer565190
Defiance5564101
Crawford5563117
Madison551071
Highland549282
Fulton542583
Clinton533781
Logan518687
Preble5102111
Putnam4900107
Guernsey484364
Williams468982
Perry462254
Champaign454264
Ottawa442484
Jackson434563
Pike398345
Morrow396451
Coshocton391969
Fayette383753
Adams369275
Hardin366170
Gallia355458
Holmes3321111
Henry329869
Van Wert320771
Hocking310770
Wyandot285458
Carroll266352
Paulding246443
Meigs221742
Monroe192749
Noble174142
Morgan170029
Harrison160741
Vinton141319
Unassigned05
Fort Wayne
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Angola
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64° wxIcon
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Huntington
Partly Cloudy
60° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 60°
Decatur
Partly Cloudy
60° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 60°
Van Wert
Partly Cloudy
63° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 63°
Monday is another nice and breezy day with warmer temperatures.
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