To the Editor:
This week, former First Lady Rosalynn Carter will be memorialized in Atlanta. Many will celebrate or mourn as appropriate remembering her steadfast partnership with her husband, a President, and her faith.
For me though, I’m haunted by her much-repeated, much-debated, and sometimes much-maligned observation after her husband’s defeat in the Presidential election of 1980.
At the time, she observed of President-elect Reagan, “I think the President makes us comfortable with our prejudices.”
This week is a good time to reflect on both this piercing observation of the time and its prescient prediction of our own recent past coming to a crescendo in 2016 with the election of Donald Trump.
As a youth coming of both voting and ‘paying attention’ age in the late ’70s and early ‘80s I bought into the Shining City on the Hill hope that Reagan offered. I carried him as a legacy GOP benchmark up to and even beyond leaving the Republican Party in 2019 in search of all that had been cast aside and replaced with MAGA bravado and intolerance.
Was I so naive for three decades to not see what Rosalynn Carter saw while Reagan was stumping his subtle ‘States Rights’ argument that was used by the Confederacy as they retained their southern ‘way of life’ to justify slavery or to his not-so-subtle ‘Welfare Queen’ label that was used by supporters to foment disdain upon those of lesser means?
I accept that I have that burden of reflection to bear while determining if Reagan’s intentions were overt or inadvertent campaign rhetoric that ultimately laid the foundation for the MAGA revolution of 2016.
Lucky for me though, I ‘woke’ to the Trump-fueled MAGA intolerance after 2016 to clearly see what Rosalynn Carter was warning of nearly four decades ago.
As she is laid to rest, I’ll be using this week to evaluate how political leaders address prejudice-related issues and closely evaluate their statements and actions to determine if they contribute to understanding and equality, or do they simply make us comfortable with our prejudices.
Christopher Gibbs, chairman
Shelby County Democratic Party