The Dividing Line

By William Dodson

Everyday we scurry off to work. We battle slow moving traffic and busy intersections. We take for granted (almost sub-consciously) the boundaries that constrain us. A system of lines indicate the course of travel and the lanes that confine our path. If we ignore them, then conflict occurs and contact ensues that could have devastating results. Because we have been taught this sustained grid and its demands are monitored and generally maintained with a relatively small number of accidents as an unspoken honor system works 24/7/365!

Our society experiences many conflicts and often the outcomes are not pleasant as boundaries are violated and harm results. America has endured a revolutionary war to break its ties to Great Britain and its monarchy; a civil war that sought to divide the nation over the slavery question; and two World Wars that threatened America and its European allies.

It has endured through lesser internal challenges most specifically, the race question, beginning in the 1940's in integrating our military service to school desegregation in the 1960s. Landmark Civil Rights legislation was passed, including a Voting Rights Bill in 1965 by a once staunch opponent, President Lyndon B. Johnson, He was the successor to the late John F. Kennedy who was to pursue such a course in a potential second term. Camelot unfulfilled gave way to a new era and the Democratic Party reaped a windfall of support from African Americans. Many prominent black leaders were registered Republicans including Martin Luther King. Though Democrats had been silent regarding lynchings throughout the South, it now enjoyed newfound support from blacks as their new champion as Franklin D. Roosevelt had earlier with the New Deal programs. This ushered in a new Public Housing program replacing dilapidated slums in major northern cities consumed by blacks migrating form the rural south in search of jobs.A reluctant President Harry S. Truman had desegregated the military in support of war in the Pacific theater with Japan. The racial divide appeared to have faded.

However that was not the case and school desegregation tipped off conflict between the South and the Executive Branch, which forced the US Supreme Court to weigh in on the Little Rock School Case. Again the Mason-Dixon Line was the demarcation line for a new 'War between the States' until federal laws broke down racial prejudice and discrimination with a cadre of laws and Executive Orders. The assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. galvanized the movement and Washington responded in kind to restore confidence in our democratic form of government and 'the rest they say is history' until our present state. The election of a two-term black President suggested that bigotry and prejudice had buried its ugly head for once and for all.


After a 'Clash of the Titans', the 2016 election of Donald J. Trump has 'turned up the volume' on this subject of race in a dramatic and unexpected way. Wresting the nomination of the heir apparent and others who sought the office of the Presidency knocking off his opponents 'one by one' till there were none left standing. Ohio's governor John Kasich pulled off a decisive victory in New Hampshire's primary but the Trump train had long left the station racking up a commanding lead of delegates, inevitably securing the nomination and an unexpected defeat of Hilary Clinton despite a 3 million lead in the popular vote. Once again the Electoral College made the critical determination of the winner in a very contentious race. Again a plumb line has swung in an unpredictable manner, diving the nation in angst and dissension. A highly emotional backlash is still 'ringing off the hook' across the land and daily on in the media. The incumbent has incurred the wrath of democrats in Congress and the media as well. Social media, which played a significant role throughout the campaign, is clogged with memes and critical posts of the new president in its daily feed. Every public comment as well as the naming of cabinet appointments are condemned, as well as the role of the winning party in this unintended consequence. To say that the media is having a field day is dis-ingenuous! The daily events of this new administration befuddle the media as its actions do not fall in line with the long term precedents of past administrations. And given the new presidents' compulsive use of Twitter to air his disdain for criticism in the media, convention has gone out the window.

Line upon line

Because of the tone of the Trump campaign and the behavior manifested at his rallies across the country, issues of race and class have followed into the perception of the new president and his entourage and the selection of cabinet officials. In spite of comments from Trump's camp on the contrary, they have made many missteps to shake the perception of bigotry or racial bias. The recent fiasco with Steve Harvey did not play well with naysayers and even Harvey's own fanbase was put off by the gesture. The new president further stunned his critics with a staged 'black history' event with his staff where he spoke accolades to the contribution of Abolitionist Frederick Douglass, lauding him as if he were still alive today! Douglass died 122 years ago!

Flipping the script

The new president may find support for his agenda if clarity was given as to his goals. In the case of his appointment of his friend, Dr. Ben Carson, as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, for example, he might want to make a case for preserving a safety net for low- income families rather than displacing them by relocation to make way for mixed-income units often a guise for Gentrification. That would put the liberals on the offensive appealing to 'compassionate conservatism' of past administrations.

This is the balance RCAP offers to the Republican Party: reasoned policy development to address contemporary community problems with empathy. Developing responsible policies and programs to ameliorate the effects of long-term poverty and foster sustainable development strategies. Such a course could embrace the principles of holistic community development and economic opportunity. Fostering entrepreneurship and real job development will help uplift all sectors of the economy as viable alternatives for the American people as well. Engaging big business interests in the well-being of our cities and states is a 'Win-Win' for all.

The Hoover plan set in motion America's current form of government which suggests a review of what is working and what needs re-worked to better serve our country. There should be a partnership of both the Executive and Legislative branches in this review and mutual agreement on new program goals. There should be genuine consensus in the need for policy shifts to enhance opportunity or all our citizens.

Policy forums could be held around the country to fashion programs and services that are responsive to a wide range of specific issues and approaches to their resolution in the communities experiencing difficulties. Regional solutions could be focused on directly and general application of solutions may be shared across the country. First responders may be assigned to State Capitols or major cities to enhance accessibility of these facilitators. State and Local experts may be engaged as partners in the implementation of specific initiatives pursued.

RCAP would serve as a liaison to the administration and state and local officials to insure effective communication and program coordination. Best practices and program successes would be documented and shared for replication where feasible.

These measures are suggested to not burden local communities with an additional layer of bureaucracy rather as an avenue of accessibility and advocacy for their replication and long- term viability. RCAP fellows would be guardians of this human capital to be shared to address America's challenges with its greatest natural resource: its people!

A plum line is dropped to measure the effectiveness of our people to maintain the principles of our shared values and our democratic form of government.