Dark forces drive political machinations

6 mins read

By Terry Manning

The lyrics of the old gospel song bubble up from distant memory.

“Don’t let the devil ride,

Oh, don’t let the devil ride,

If you let the devil ride,

He will want to drive,

Don’t let him ride”

This usually happens when I am watching or reading news about the most recent former president and the threats he makes against lawmakers who didn’t support his false claims of fraud in the 2020 presidential election or who speak publicly about the Republic Party’s needing to move on from his influence.

“Don’t let him flag you down

Oh, oh, don’t you let him flag you down

If he flags you down, he turns your soul around

Don’t let him ride”

It happens when I hear politicians who should know better make statements that defy common sense. Like Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, who made comments about not being afraid of the rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 because, “I knew those were people that love this country, that truly respect law enforcement, would never do anything to break the law, and so I wasn’t concerned.”

Maybe Johnson would have felt differently if he had been dressed as a Capitol policeman, but I digress …

He continued — prefacing his next comments with, “This could get me in trouble” — he would have been “a little concerned” if the demonstrators had been Black Lives Matter and Antifa activists. A mostly white crowd of armed insurgents? What’s to worry about? A predominantly Black crowd marching for police reform? Grab your guns!

“Don’t you let him be your boss

Don’t you let him be your boss

If you let him be your boss

Your soul will be lost

Don’t let him ride”

It happened when I read South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott told Fox News that “Woke supremacy is as bad as white supremacy.”

I ask you, dear reader, just what in the who-said-huh is “woke supremacy”? Is that what brought down Dr. Seuss? Pepé Le Pew? Mr. Potato Head? I guess when you compare those atrocities to hundreds of years of systemic racism and racially motivated violence, including the recent massage parlor shootings in Atlanta, maybe Scott … has a – No, I won’t grant his having a point even for the sake of emphasizing how foolish he sounded making it. There is no “woke supremacy,” Sen. Scott! He knows better, but he also knows who his constituents are.

“Don’t let him drive your car

Don’t you let him drive your car

If you let him drive your car

He’s sure to go too far

Don’t let him drive”

It happened when South Carolina’s senior senator, Lindsey Graham, was quoted waxing mystically to Axios about the former president: “There’s something about (Donald) Trump. There’s a dark side, and there’s some magic there, and what I’m trying to do is harness the magic.”

There are entire fictional genres based on the various ways attempts to “harness” dark forces can go wrong, but sure, Lindsey, why not you? He is convinced the party can’t regain control of Congress next year without the support of the former president and the sizable bloc of Republican voters he still commands. He’s probably right.

What a dilemma for Republicans like Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger, Mitt Romney — and probably Mitch McConnell — who are ready to leave Trump in the rearview mirror, but the devil can’t fade in the distance while he still has the wheel.

“Don’t let him call your name

Don’t you let him call your name

If you let him call your name

You get there just the same

Don’t let him ride”

I’m not actually calling Trump the devil; the GOP’s problems are bigger than one man. The triumvirate menaces of racism, greed and violence have driven too much of our nation’s history. It doesn’t matter which party was in charge. But the current Republican Party seems to have embraced them with an enthusiasm and openness that is newly troubling.

The Rev. Oris Mays left us a warning in lyrics they might do well to heed. Or maybe they have decided the potential gains from the dark forces they embrace will be worth the risk. Heaven help us all if they fail — or if they succeed.

Terry E. Manning lives and works in Savannah, Ga. He is a Clemson graduate and worked for 20 years as a journalist. He can be reached at teemanning@gmail.com.

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