Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis add to the US history of demonizing politicians


Last week, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who learned of the latest indictment of former President Trump, had a novel: “Americans should have the right to take back the cases in Washington,” he wrote on Fox News, adding: “It’s unfair. should be tried before a jury that exhibits a “swamp mentality.”

Soon after, Trump and his lawyers took to social media and on Sunday in the nation’s capital, pointing out that he had not received a fair trial.

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And so begins a new chapter in a long saga of lawmakers treating D.C. residents like un-Americans — a story as closely tied to race as it is to partisanship.

“I think (DeSantis) is using a very old trick in this case to confuse the federal government with the people of D.C.,” George D. Musgrove, historian and co-author of Chocolate City: A Racial History. and democracy in the country’s capital,” he said in an interview. “If the ‘swamp’ is a real thing … it’s the perception of the federal politicians, the federal bureaucracy, the lobbyists, the people who run the federal government. Then there are the 690,000 actual residents of the District of Columbia, who may be middle and working class, such as “teachers and bus drivers.”

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Musgrove, a professor at the University of Maryland in Baltimore County, noted that a significant number of lobbyists and federal employees live near Virginia and Maryland, and residents of the area often “disagree” with the federal government.

“People like Ron DeSantis know they’re two different people,” Musgrove said, noting that DeSantis was a congressman and has a bachelor’s degree in history from Yale. “But they decide to confuse the two because it works better for the narrative they’re pushing.”

The federal district was created in Article 1 of the Constitution, which allows Congress to “make special legislation in any case relating to this district.” In Federalist Papers #43, James Madison argued that this was necessary so that no state could “abuse” or “interfere” with legislators—that is, influence legislators by proximity alone. (This was, of course, a throwback to the days when legislators rarely traveled to their home states, checked their pocket phones, and couldn’t find out what voters thought.) A few sentences later, Madison County residents always “have a voice in electing a government that will exercise their power; derived from their electoral rights as municipal legislatures for local purposes, they are of course allowed.

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This did not happen. The Organic Act of 1801 gave Congress power by district and disenfranchised residents in almost all elections. Georgetown and Alexandria were allowed to retain local governments, but the burgeoning “City of Washington,” as it was then known, was not.

“They smell right away,” Musgrove said. “And the next year, in 1802, Congress gave the people of Washington a hybrid form of government that was part appointed and part elected. The amount of voter participation in choosing this government will slowly increase to the point where you have an elected mayor and council.

Some of the county’s residents continued to object to these restrictions, and in 1846 half of the county retreated to Virginia, in part to prevent the federal government from abolishing slavery in Alexandria, a major inland trading port. slaves at that time.

Then civil war and reconstruction began. In 1867, Congress, controlled by Radical Republicans, overrode President Andrew Johnson’s veto of the 15th Amendment, which would have given blacks in the district the same voting rights as white men, three years before the 15th Amendment was ratified. By this time, the district’s black population had grown by a third due to the Emancipation Order and the migration of self-governing people and Civil War veterans five years earlier. African Americans were quickly elected to local government, Musgrove said.

But when the legislatures of the former Confederate states returned to the city, Congress once again clamped down on the rights of district residents, stripping them of what little power they had over local government and handing it over to the president. In 2019, US Attorney General John Tyler Morgan, a former Confederate senator from Alabama, claimed that Congress “decided to burn down the barn to get rid of the rats … the rats are the black people, and the barn is the county government.” Colombia. DC residents’ rights have been preserved for nearly a century.

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But the lack of control made it an interesting “testing ground” for the 20th-century federal government, Musgrove said, which halted federal labor segregation and racist conventions on housing before taking the effort to the national level.

“Really, the civil rights movement ended in the area in 1954,” he said, a decade before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed. And in 1957, DC became the first major city to form a black majority through a combination of white flight and black migration.

“A lot of (white) people want the beauty of suburbia: lawns, good schools, more space. But many of these people were afraid to integrate into the district,” Musgrove said. “At the same time, African-Americans are increasingly settling in neighborhoods, and they still have no choice but to move to isolated suburbs. Therefore, they are forced to move to the city.

District residents won the right to vote for president in 1961, with bipartisan support. This is right in the middle of the party realignment of the 20th century, when the Democrats became the most liberal party and the Republicans the most conservative, and black voters slowly shifted their membership from the latter to the former.

In the 1970s, when the reorganization of the party was nearing completion, Three-quarters of the district’s population was black. In 1973, the Home Rule Act restored local government to a mayor and council elected by residents. But some deputies opposed this law A congressman from Louisiana has made racist arguments, fearing that the city has been “taken over” by black Muslims.

Today, Democrats make up about 77% of registered voters in the district, while Republicans make up just 5%, according to the latest figures from the DC Board of Elections. The city does not have a black majority, although African Americans still make up 45% of the population, and all of its elected mayors since 1975 have been African Americans. Residents have a representative in the House, Eleanor Holmes Norton, but she does not have the right to vote. Congress still controls the city budget Despite overwhelming support from local voters, the district was prevented from taxing and regulating the sale of marijuana.

That’s why race and partisanship can’t be separated when talking about D.C.’s quest for statehood today, Musgrove said. “Republicans have become very hostile to the right of the district to self-determination,” he said, and now “if some of their members are indicted, it will even become a challenge to the district jury.”

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So, is DeSantis and Trump’s Washington grand jury “difference” racist dog whistles, pure partisanship, or something else?

“I think it could be a guerilla attack. But again, I don’t think I can separate (by race and partisanship) Trump’s focus on Detroit and Fulton County. , (Ga.), in the last election he accused of fraud,” Musgrove said.

“The area is always an irresistible target for anyone looking to identify the culprit without too much resistance. You can hit a district and nobody can answer you,” Musgrove said. “It’s just the nature of relationships.”

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