We are about to learn something important about this country. Donald Trump is running for re-election as a flat-out racist and bigot, and we are going to discover who we are as a nation by how many of our fellow citizens vote for him in 2020. Whether Trump wins or not, I’m afraid it’s going to be a bitter, nasty lesson.

It’s hardly worth discussing anymore whether Trump is a racist. After three years of tweeting and screeching his anti-black, anti-woman, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-gay, anti-trans, anti-anyone-who-isn’t-a-white-male-just-like-him, Trump’s wide ranging prejudice is a settled issue. He doesn’t even pretend otherwise. It’s the centerpiece of his campaign, practically the whole reason he’s running for a second term.

The Republican Party has surrendered to the racist-in-chief and has become the white people’s party. Support for the president among Republicans runs between 80 and 90 percent. They have almost completely thrown in their lot with him and will turn out in force in 2020. The election has boiled down to a contest between a man who coddles white supremacists and belittles African-Americans, and any Democrat at all willing to stand in opposition to Trump’s hateful mien.

How did we get to be a country with such a disgusting piece of racist, bigoted garbage as our president? It seems incredible to think of now, but there was a time in the not-so-distant past when racism seemed on the wane. I’m not talking about the moment Barack Obama first took office in 2009, when newspaper pages and cable news shows were awash in talk of a “post-racial” America. The time I’m thinking of was back in the 1980s, when I first saw, if not a racial healing, at least a diminishment of racial animus.

I had moved to New Orleans in 1985, and I was spending a good deal of my time in small towns in Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas. Sure, you still saw Confederate flag license plates on pickup trucks and hanging from people’s front porches. But the civil rights laws of the 1960s had finally started producing results. African-Americans had been elected to state legislatures across the south, and there were black big city mayors in Atlanta, New Orleans and Birmingham.

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