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he went there

Presidential historian: Trump joins Andrew Johnson 'as the most racist president in American history'

It took more than a century, but Andrew Johnson has met his match when it comes to racist presidents, presidential historian Jon Meacham said Monday.

Meacham appeared on MSNBC's Hardball to discuss President Trump telling four lawmakers — all Democratic women of color — that they needed to "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came." Going on a "journey toward a more perfect union is the story of the country," Meacham said. "What the president's done here is yet again — I think he did it after Charlottesville and I think he did it, frankly, when he was pushing the birther lie about President Obama — he has joined Andrew Johnson as the most racist president in American history."

Meacham explained that in a state message, Johnson "said African Americans were incapable of self-government and relapsed into barbarism if they weren't closely supervised." Historian Eric Foner, he added, "said this was the single most racist statement by a president in a public paper." Since the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954, when the Supreme Court ruled racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional, politicians have set it up so poor black Americans and poor white Americans are "pointing at each other instead of pointing up," Meacham said. "That's the story of the racial politics of the country in the modern era. By using culture instead of economics, which the Republican Party in the modern era has done very well."

The country can't escape its past, and it's "pointless to try to expiate ourselves from what Trump has been saying," he said, adding, "The way America moves forward from this is 51 percent of the time we're with Lincoln instead of Andrew Johnson."