Donald Trump, as he often tells us, likes to make deals. Years ago, on CNN, he criticized then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice because, in his view, she jetted all around the world without making many deals. He claimed that the Iran nuclear deal, overseen by current Secretary of State John Kerry, is the worst deal ever. Or was it NAFTA, signed during the Bill Clinton administration, that was the worst deal ever?
The Donald ought to know for he has his name appended to the ghost-written best-seller, Trump: The Art of the Deal.
With a recount likely to occur in three states, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, I have been wondering if the country or Trump is ready to revisit another deal, the Compromise of 1877, following the 1876 presidential election, in which three states, Florida, Louisiana and South Carolina, flipped from the apparent ledger of Democratic standard-bearer, Samuel Tilden, to that of Republican presidential nominee, Rutherford B. Hayes.
Of course, times have changed in 140 years.
In November of 1876, at the time of the Tilden-Hayes clash, the country was quite young, had just celebrated its centennial.
Republicans were known then as the Party of Lincoln, the party that had abolished slavery, not the Party of Trump, a party that has demonized the Other.
Yet, in 1876, tensions remained high over matters of race; does this sound familiar?
The Civil War had ended not long before, and the Constitution had just been amended so that African-American men could enjoy full voting rights. Prior to the passage of the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments, each African-American man was deemed only 3/5th of a human being.
Federal troops were still located in the South to ensure the rights of African-Americans during what was known as Reconstruction.
Although the wounds were raw, there seemed to be a degree of progress on racial matters.
In June of 1876, just a month before the centennial, Edward Bouchet became the first African-American to receive a PhD when he obtained his doctorate in physics from Yale. He was only the sixth person in the history of our country to earn a PhD in that subject.
Professional baseball, which was in its infancy, would soon include some black players, like Moses Fleetwood Walker, decades before Jackie Robinson broke the so-called color barrier in 1947.
But all was not well following the 1876 election.
Republicans claimed that African-Americans had been intimidated and prevented from voting in Florida, Louisiana and South Carolina, the three contested Southern states, a charge that still resonates to this day given restricted polling areas and other impediments placed on voters in heavily African-American communities in North Carolina this year as well as reports that Trump adviser and chief strategist, Steve Bannon, has spoken blithely about disenfranchising Americans who don’t own homes.
Back in 1876, the Party of Lincoln was not the only party complaining about the presidential election.
Democrats alleged that there had been fraud committed against white Southern voters in those three states.
Without Florida, Louisiana and South Carolina, Tilden, who won the popular vote in the nation, had 184 electoral votes, one shy of the total needed at the time to clinch the presidency.
Known as a man of integrity, who had fought Tammany Hall, Tilden, the Governor of New York, did not want to drag the country, still a fragile union in the years after the Civil War, through more trauma.
He agreed to a compromise, in which he would cede the three states to Hayes, and in return, the Republicans would remove federal troops from the South.
Hayes, the Governor of Ohio, was inaugurated as president of the United States in March of 1877.
As promised, federal troops were soon removed from the South.
Tragically, the end of Reconstruction presented a vacuum in which Jim Crow took over, an evil that reigned until the 1960s when the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts were passed by Congress.
Following the Compromise of 1877, Edward Bouchet, a member of Phi Beta Kappa, did not get a job in academia. He still worked, opting to teach science at a segregated school, but during his lifetime he did not attain the status he deserved as a scholar.
And blacks were silently denied the right to play professional baseball for roughly six decades.
One-hundred forty years later, the country is still divided over race, stoked to a large extent by the hate-mongering of president-elect Trump.
As of this writing, at least 4.5 million voters have reportedly signed petitions at Change.org, urging the nation’s electors, who submit their ballots officially on December 19, to vote for Hillary Clinton.
It is worth mentioning that Clinton participated in the Civil Rights movement as a young activist.
By contrast, Donald Trump’s company in the 1970s was sued by the Justice Department for violating the Fair Housing Act, part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, by discriminating against prospective tenants based on their race.
Trump and his company settled out of court, as he recently did in the suit brought against Trump University, a sham school that defrauded students out of millions of dollars.
As far as the recounts go, they are completely justified and legal.
Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania all had extremely close tallies, a margin of 1% or so, in our recent election, and there were reported discrepancies between the results of electronic voting and other forms of voting, like paper ballots, in different counties.
Trump himself has claimed, with no evidence, that millions of votes were cast illegally and that voter fraud occurred in California, Virginia and New Hampshire, three states he lost to Hillary Clinton.
In the midst of the recounts and petitions to the Electoral College, Trump, a “basket of deplorables” unto himself, has demonstrated in the past three weeks, since the election, how he will conduct his presidency — he will have meetings with business executives and government officials from foreign countries, meetings that serve the interests of the Trump organization at least as much as the United States; he will blow off intelligence briefings, because he lacks the attention span, focus and/or cognitive capacity to read and digest briefing books at night; regardless of his cabinet members, he will rely on his daughter, Ivanka, and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, for advice on policy matters, including national security and the Middle East.
And, of course, he will lie, tweet, bully, fawn over the New York Times, whom he has often bashed, then bash the paper again when it does not write press releases on his behalf; ingratiate himself to President Obama, whom he previously tried to delegitimize through the birther campaign, then try to delegitimize our first black president again when he starts to criticize the Donald.
Trump will do all this in an effort to enrich his company brand, almost assuredly a violation of the Emoluments Clause to the Constitution.
He will continue to claim that the law is on his side, that a president can’t have a conflict of interest, and that he can run his business and the country at the same time.
But even some of his supporters know this is not true.
It doesn’t require much intelligence to question how Trump can safeguard the national security interests of the U.S. in negotiations with Russia or China or any other potential adversary or ally if and when he has corporate business interests on the table with those countries.
It is enough to make one wonder if and pray that electors might be experiencing buyers’ remorse.
So, let’s let the recounts play out.
Given the hacking of the e-mail accounts of some Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee operatives, and given how close the tallies were from Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania (the leads for Trump range from roughly 10,000 to 70,000 votes), it is certainly worth pursuing the recounts, and, as noted, it is legal to do so.
Even if the outcomes do not change in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, electors still have the right not to confer a Masters of B.S. on Donald Trump from the Electoral College, as I argued two weeks ago in my last piece.
Let us hope that the electors vote as the country did as a whole, for Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine, who received two-million more votes (and counting) than Trump and Mike Pence.
If a sufficient number of electors change their votes to Clinton, we can revisit the Compromise of 1877, except this time we won’t set back race relations for nearly 100 years with Jim Crow.
Instead, we will offer the Donald a deal.
Go back to your business, earn all the emoluments you want, and leave the presidency to Hillary.
Oh, sure, Trump will claim again that the system is “rigged,” and that Crooked Hillary, like Rutherfraud B. Hayes before her, has stolen the election. Trump will contend, as even some progressives have, that we can’t put the country through more turmoil, that we could have another Civil War.
But if you don’t resign or take the deal, Donald, you are likely to be impeached over conflicts of interest, breaches of the law and Constitution, and any number of other high crimes and misdemeanors.
If this happens, your company brand will lose its value. Then, you will lose perhaps billions of dollars and all of your feelings of self-worth.
Of course, you lost the respect of the world long ago.
At least, you can maintain your reputation as a dealmaker.