Our Opinion: Reopening wounds to play the victim

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It takes utter disdain for the fabric of America — for some of her most vulnerable forebears and children, and indeed for the nation's very history — to invoke the concept of lynching while whining about the inconvenience of being held to account.

Yet Donald Trump has consistently shown disdain for the institutional cornerstones of American democracy. Case in point, the origin of the investigation provoking Trump's latest tantrums: an apparent quid pro quo over foreign aid to Ukraine in order to sic a foreign power on the president's political opponents.

In an effort to rally his defenders, Trump on Tuesday characterized the House impeachment inquiry as "a lynching." U.S. history experts and middle school social studies students alike might point out that an inquiry and a lynching are in fact polar opposites. The former is a gathering of facts and evidence regarding allegations of wrongdoing, the latter an extrajudicial killing to keep an oppressed people in fear. One might go a step further and point out just how monumentally obscene it is for a white billionaire real estate mogul turned reality TV star tweeting from the most fortified compound in the world to compare himself to black Americans in the Jim Crow era whose bodies were dragged through the street, mutilated and hanged from lampposts and trees. (See Michele Norris column below.)

One could be forgiven for being idealistic enough to wonder yet again, will this be the incident that causes Trump's backers to meaningfully break ranks?

When asked his reaction on Trump's lynching remarks, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy summoned all of his spine to say: "That's not the language I would use."

"An unfortunate choice of words," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

"I think that's pretty well accurate," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., of Mr. Trump's comparing himself to a lynching victim.

The president, unfortunately, is not the only prominent politician to flippantly use the term. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, during his 1991 confirmation process, said the investigation into allegations of sexual harassment lodged against him by Anita Hill constituted a "high-tech lynching for uppity blacks." On Tuesday, former Vice President and current Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden apologized for using the term in 1998 when a clip emerged of him calling the impeachment of President Bill Clinton a "partisan lynching." A number of Democratic congressmen used the term back then also, including New York Rep. Jerry Nadler, now the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, who said in reference to the Clinton impeachment that Republicans were "running a lynch mob." The distinction, of course, is that President Trump is a racist who continues to perpetuate racist rhetoric and stoking racial discord to benefit himself.

The word "lynching" should be dropped from the political lexicon. Nothing that an elected or appointed official experiences in the political fray compares to the reality of what so many African Americans have suffered at the hands of white Americans.

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