MSNBC's Joe Scarborough began the day commemorating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by playing a clip from 31 years ago in which President Ronald Reagan hoped that Americans could come together.
"As recent unfortunate events have demonstrated, we cannot be complacent about racism and bigotry," Reagan said in the 1987 speech. "I would challenge all of you to pledge yourselves to building an America where incidents of racial hatred do not happen because racism has been banned not just from the law books, but from the hearts of the people."
Scarborough contrasted those words with the recent ones from President Donald Trump that "people from sh*thole countries" like Haiti and African nations are coming into the United States. Instead, Trump allegedly said that he wants to see more people from Norway.
"So, there you have it. Two presidents. Two Republicans. Two men claiming to be conservatives and yet a great divide between race even among two conservative Republican presidents," Scarborough noted. "But after all these decades of progress, here we find ourselves with the reactionary and, yes, some would say a racist president."
Scarborough noted that history doesn't always go in a straight line but he predicts historians will be shocked that the United States arc toward progress took a dramatic turn back to racism after the first black president was elected in 2008.
"Well, we have a recurrent and tragic tendency in the American soul to fear rather than to hope," historian Jon Meacham said. "To point at people instead of looking ahead. It was said years and years ago that the American dilemma is race. [W.E.B.] DuBois
said the problem of the 20th century in America is the problem of the color line. The question is, and the tragedy of the current moment that describing, is we thought that was the problem of the 20th century. Evidently it continues to be a problem into this our fourth century as a country if you count is colonial experience. You're right about history being long. Dr. King used to quote paraphrase Theodore Parker the great abolitionist from the mid 19th century who said the arc of a moral universe is long but it bends towards justice. And that's the hope we have to dedicate ourselves to on days like this."
Today, however, Scarborough said that we've slipped back into a world where the president is reactionary and "burrows down" as he "seeks approval from a third of the electorate."
"He's constantly appealing to his base," said Eddie Glaude Jr. "I think instead of appealing to our better angels as Abraham Lincoln had us do, he appeals to our darkest fears. I think it's important we need to remember, Joe, especially on this day, the kind of racial animist attended the eight years that Barack Obama was in office. The racial tensions that emerged, the energy and some ways the dark undertow of the tea party. The unleashing of voter suppression efforts during the eight years."
He also noted the country was polarized when Reagan was elected as Jessie Helms worked to pass the legislation that commemorated Dr. King's holiday.
"You can think about that kind of energy and reaction to President Reagan announcing his presidential run in Philadelphia, Mississippi, and claiming states rights as his orientation," Glaude continued. "There was a lot of racial tension then. There was a lot of racial tension during Barack Obama's tenure and we have racial tension now. And part of -- I was thinking just earlier this morning about a quote from Ralph Ellison, the great American novelist. He said Americans are notoriously selective in our exercise of historical memory and it's our on going forgetfulness, the original sin of racism, that continues to haunt the country, that keeps us on this hamster wheel. Here we are now dealing with the latest consequence and that's Donald Trump."
Watch the full commentary below: