The spat between John Lewis and Donald Trump is all over the news today. It began when Mr. Lewis announced that in his view the Trump presidency was illegitimate, which is no small thing for a member of Congress to say on the eve of a presidential inauguration.
If I were Donald Trump, which I manifestly am not, I would not have dignified the remark with a response. (Or I might have offered an old Turkish saying: “The dog barks, the caravan passes.”) But solemnity and gravitas are not Mr. Trump’s modus operandi. If you pick a fight with him, you’ll get one, and he’ll be happy to roll around in the mud with you. He likes it down there.
It’s all very boring and tawdry, and I make no brief here for Mr. Trump’s behavior. But one thing that should not stand is the Left’s assumption (which we’ve seen before in this political season) that some players in this game deserve immunity from criticism on the basis of their personal history. Over the past couple of days, we’ve been hearing from every corner that anyone who criticizes the civil-rights hero John Lewis automatically forfeits the match.
Sorry, but no. John Lewis did brave things a half-century ago. He deserves respect for that, and he has received it, in spades. Indeed, he has received something more akin to canonization, to religious sanctification — which is not surprising, given the nature of the secular religion of the Left, and what it considers sacred objects.
But he has chosen to be a politician, and politics here in the final stages of the American republic is a rough-and-tumble business, a steel-cage match between competing interests, incompatible social and moral axioms — and, as we should all have expected as multiculturalism has increasingly worked its magic, tribal struggles for dominance. Had Mr. Lewis spent his dotage writing memoirs and receiving awards, he would have deserved respectful deference. But he has chosen to spend it in Congress. He’s welcome to say what he likes, of course, but if he’s going to get in the ring, he’s going to get what he gives.
Get ready for a lot more of this kind of thing. If you thought the Bush or Obama presidencies were contentious, you ain’t seen nothing yet. If the Republic as presently constituted still exists ten years from now, I’ll be amazed.