Civil Rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) told NBC’s Chuck Todd last week that, for the first time in 30 years since George W. Bush defeated Al Gore fair and square in 2000, he will not be attending the presidential inauguration because he doesn’t believe Donald Trump is “a legitimate president.” His reason: “the Russians participated in helping this man get elected” and “helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.”
As both his Democrat opponents and his most ardent supporters were likely hoping he’d do, Trump responded in his usual “spirited” manner to Lewis’s slight on Twitter.
“Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk – no action or results. Sad!” he wrote.
HotAir’s Allahpundit points out that Lewis is the ideal point man for Democrats’ attacks on Trump because, despite his deep blue voting record and “vicious” attacks on Republicans, Lewis is “typically treated as nonpartisan”:
In practice, though, [Lewis has] been a reliable liberal as a congressman and a usefully vicious critic of Republicans for his party. The 2008 campaign ended with Lewis accusing John McCain of “sowing the seeds of hatred and division” and comparing him explicitly to George Wallace. Five years later, McCain was still vowing that he’ll never forgive him for it. For the left’s purposes, “John Lewis” is basically a synecdoche for “the civil-rights movement.” Criticize him, for whatever reason and no matter how justified, and you’re criticizing social progress writ large — exactly the sort of perception Democrats want to create about Trump.
Lewis enjoys this special status — no matter how unjustified by his clear partisanship — because of the significant role he played in the Civil Rights movement, in which he participated at great personal sacrifice, including getting his skull fractured. That’s why Trump’s “all talk” accusation isn’t the best response. While slamming another Democrat for failing to make life better, particularly for minorities, in his district is probably a wise track on the aggregate, portraying Lewis as yet another do-nothing politician obviously flies in the face of his Civil Rights history. A stronger angle would have been to highlight that Lewis is promoting the Democrats’ increasingly hysterical Russian conspiracy theories and revealing his truly partisan colors.
Will Trump’s response help or hurt him? Probably neither. It’s just Trump being Trump, but more Democrats are, at least publicly, using his rebuke of Lewis as an excuse to sit out the inauguration, which they would have likely figured out a way to rationalize anyhow.
This article has been updated to highlight the fact that the widely reported claim that Lewis had never boycotted an election before was bogus.