Ineffective and dishonest politicians have used racism as a shield from criticism for half a century.
To make sense of President Trump’s dust-up with Rep. Elijah Cummings, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the Democratic Party, you have to go back to Baltimore in April 1968, when the city was overwhelmed by a riot in the wake of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. The National Guard and city police proved unable to contain the situation. Mayor Tommy D’Alesandro III, Mrs. Pelosi’s elder brother, pleaded with President Lyndon B. Johnson to send in federal troops.
In 1968 Maryland hadn’t yet been absorbed by the wealth of Washington. It was still a semi-Southern state, lying below the Mason-Dixon Line. Republican Spiro Agnew—later Richard Nixon’s vice president—had been elected governor in 1966 over a segregationist Democratic nominee. In the black areas of West and East Baltimore, the King assassination triggered four days of rioting and looting.
The conflict was so fierce that the Baltimore police, 500 state troopers and 6,000 National Guardsmen were unable to quell it. Finally the “insurrection” was halted when Johnson deployed nearly 5,000 Army troops at Agnew’s request. By the time it was over, six people were dead. Mr. D’Alesandro, who had considered running for governor, was so humiliated by the rioting in a city where his father has been mayor before him that he decided to withdraw from elective politics.
Fred Siegel is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor at City Journal.
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