In the wake of shocking violence that erupted after far-left and far-right protesters clashed at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia the Left has only increased its calls to remove all traces of the Confederacy from American public life.
Critics of these efforts, including President Trump, argue that it isn’t wise to “erase history.” They claim that if we take down Confederate monuments on the grounds that they represent slavery or might be considered “racist” by some people in the modern era, then we open the door to removing far more than just the statues honoring the Confederacy.
“So this week it’s Robert E. Lee,” Trump told reporters during a press conference last week. “I notice that Stonewall Jackson’s coming down. I wonder: Is it George Washington next week, and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself — where does it stop?”
If current events are any indication, it doesn’t stop, and it won’t stop until every public trace of history in America that could possibly offend people not of European descent is destroyed. This is almost inevitable given the realities of the political economy, according to Dr. Marshall DeRosa, a political science professor at Florida Atlantic University and author of “The Enduring Relevance of Robert E. Lee: The Ideological Warfare Underpinning the American Civil War.”
“For the sake of argument, imagine all things Confederate are removed from the cultural landscape. This will not necessarily satiate the passions of those factions demanding the removal, nor the opportunities for politicians to benefit from the support of those factions,” writes DeRosa in an essay shared with LifeZette.
“It’s reasonable to expect a sort of mission creep from the removal of Confederate monuments to non-Confederate monuments associated with slavery, e.g., Grant, Sherman, Lincoln, Jefferson, Madison, Washington, etc.” he writes. “This is how the political market functions; if interest-group demands are strong enough, the political apparatus will respond with the supply.”
But the push to remove a widening group of American monuments has turned out to be less of a mission creep and more of a full sprint. On Wednesday a Chicago pastor demanded the removal of a statue of George Washington from a park named after him as well as the renaming of the park. He also demanded that a park named for Andrew Jackson be renamed.
“I call on the immediate removal of President George Washington and President Andrew Jackson names from the parks located on the southeast side of Chicago,” wrote James Dukes, pastor of Liberation Christian Center, in a letter to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “They should not have the distinct honor of being held as heroes when they actively participated in the slave trade.”
“When I see that [statue of Washington], I see a person who fought for the liberties, and I see people that fought for the justice and freedom of white America, because at that moment, we were still chattel slavery,” Duke told CBS Chicago.
One woman interviewed for a VICE News documentary on the Charlottesville rally appeared to indicate support for tearing down Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home. “This is what we deal with every day being African-American, and this has always been the reality of Charlottesville,” the woman told VICE. “You can’t stand in one corner in this city and not look at the master sitting on top of Monticello. He looks down on us. He’s been looking down on this city for God knows how long.”
Actor Leslie Odom Jr, star of the musical “Hamilton,” also indicated support for removing monuments to the Founding Fathers last week. “If we decide as a community that this bronze commemoration is no longer doing that, if it’s no longer inspiring us, if it’s no longer making us feel great about ourselves, they come down for a while, or forever,” he said in an interview with TMZ last Wednesday.
“If a statue has to come down for a minute, we’re allowed to do that,” Odom said. “We’re even allowed to do that to Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. They’re not off the table for discussion. I think it’s a great question.”
But slave-owning presidents aren’t the only ones being attacked. The Lincoln Monument in Washington, D.C. was vandalized with graffiti last week, while a bust of Abraham Lincoln in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood was burned on Wednesday.
Not even Catholic saints are safe from this growing radical rage against statues that offend leftist sensibilities. A statue of Father Junípero Serra in a park in Mission Hills, California was vandalized last week. A photo circulated online showing Serra’s head and hands covered in red paint and the word “murder” spray-painted in white across its front. The monument depicts Serra with his arm around a child — a swastika was painted on the statue of the child.
Though they have thus confined their complaints to Confederate monuments, Democrats could ultimately jump on the bandwagon of extreme monument removal. “Once mobilized interest groups represent a valuable asset in the political process, one that merits further investment by political operatives,” explains DeRosa, “in the Madisonian view politicians will seek the support of either the pro or con Confederate monuments debate not necessarily in the public interest, but in their respective political interests.”
If the Democrats do close ranks behind the effort to remove all statues that offend radical leftists, then the Republicans are likely to endorse their own strong grass-roots support for keeping such monuments. “They are trying to erase history,” said Maine’s Gov. Paul LePage in a radio interview with WGAN last week. “How can future generations learn if we are going to erase history? That’s disgusting.”