Election 2020’s One Big Issue

Winner takes a four-year lease photo by Pixabay.

Slogan? May I suggest, “Keep the White House White?”

It’s like he finally opened a history book and noticed the One Big Issue that almost scuttled the Constitution at the drafting stage. The One Big Issue that boiled up again in a great Civil War that almost destroyed the young nation. The same One Big Issue that moved grown men to parade around with pillow slips on their heads, which was funny, and to hang the mutilated corpses of black people from trees, which was not.

It’s amazing that a POTUS would choose to make an election an overt referendum on white supremacy in 2020, but here we are. White Americans are being asked right out front to weigh the value of lives with color and compare those to lives without.

I always thought Tom Jefferson accidentally settled the One Big Issue as to blacks when he wrote to George III about why we were repealing that obnoxious tax on tea once and for all. Elsewhere in the document, he made clear that Indians were not equal, but if that truth really was “self evident,” it would come out in the wash. Maybe it will when all the reservations get running water.

My heart says:

Fine, Mr. Trump, let’s get that dirty laundry cleaned up once and for all.

But my brain reminds me of how many people treated me differently when my tribal citizenship got mentioned in the Austin newspaper. Lawyers who had practiced before my bench for years suddenly found it necessary to explain concepts you would expect a first year law student to know. Thirty years ago is not exactly ancient history.

More evidence became public to help suss out the One Big Issue when we got a full transcript of George Floyd’s last words. The man knew exactly what was going on as his life was slowly extinguished. Toward the end of the slow motion homicide that took a nation’s breath away, Mr. Floyd was gasping his last words, goodbyes to his loved ones. He pronounced himself dead, which I suppose is a rare privilege.

Tell my kids I love them. I’m dead.

When all the video and audio recordings are put together, we have a story as clear and as ugly as anything ISIS ever put out. You remember, don’t you? Cutting off prisoners’ heads as they gaze into the camera. Mass drownings in a wire cage. The young Jordanian pilot burned alive. Alleged gay people thrown off tall buildings. One ugliness they all had in common was that the victims were forced to see a gruesome and painful death coming. The public murder of George Floyd fits right in and feeds the One Big Issue.

Mr. Trump chose to fight the mid-term elections around a pack of lies about immigration. That did not go well for the GOP.

The country declined the invitation to fear brown people and therefore to hate them. Perhaps the fear factor dialed back too much when Mr. Trump deployed the regular army on the southern border.

He now doubles down with an invitation to fear and therefore to hate whole classes of U.S. citizens. We are invited to endorse the public murder of George Floyd as necessary self-defense against the Black Lives Matter “hate group”. From watching the video of Black Lives Matter demonstrations, I do not think it is any longer a majority black organization — but it’s unlikely that Black Lives Matter issues membership cards.

It would be unwise to make an unprovable claim about non-black adherents to Black Lives Matter when disputing with Donald John Trump, whose scrupulous dedication to the truth is the stuff of legend.

The president of the United States has declared Black Lives Matter to be a symbol of hate. He is staking his reelection on enough voters taking his declaration to be true to swing the electoral college. He has already proven that he does not need to get the most votes. So he’s throwing buckets of money at stoking enough fear and hatred to scare some white folks into voting for him and others into staying home.

One Big Issue. The 2020 election presents One Big Issue.

Not the pandemic.

Not the shattered economy.

The most important issue facing the USA, the incumbent president shows with his allocation of resources, is white supremacy.

He is betting on that One Big Issue and he may be right. To fight the pandemic and rebuild the economy, we need to pull together, but pulling together is not what Mr. Trump has in mind.

Enrolled Cherokee, 9th grade dropout, retired judge, associate professor emeritus, and (so far) cancer survivor. Memoir: Lighting the Fire (Miniver Press 2020)

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