“I don’t like the idea of honoring the losing team with a statue,” said Stephen Miller, conservative media critic and contributor to The Spectator.
But protesters have gone further in recent days, defacing monuments of prominent figures who owned slaves or oppressed minority groups, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Andrew Jackson also owned slaves and oversaw an era of forced expulsion of Native Americans from their territories. Even the heroes of the Civil War have not escaped fury. On Friday, protesters attacked a statue of Ulysses S. Grant, the Union general and future president who literally waged a war against the Confederacy, citing a slave Grant was gifted with and then freed before the war.
Even seemingly unaffiliated statues, like one of the blues guitar legends Stevie Ray Vaughan in Austin, have been slightly vandalized. And on Monday, high-profile progressive activist Shaun King urged protesters to go to churches with statues and images of “White Jesus,” saying that portraying Jesus as a white man was a form of “white supremacy.”
“Overthrowing Washington, Jefferson and Grant hides the most important point about the Jim Crow monuments and does so about the protests, rather than the problems, which is exactly what the warriors of the right-wing culture want,” said Nichols.
During last week’s rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Trump and Pence made a firm decision to keep the Confederate statues as a way to “remember our history,” a stance that could alienate moderate voters before the 2020 election. But Trump and his allies have now turned their attention to vandalism targeting non-Confederate monuments, potentially seeking to please a broader audience as they attempt to paint progressive protesters, and the Democrats who support them, as outside the conventional US rules.
“They hate our history, they hate our values, and they hate everything we value as Americans,” Trump said Tuesday night. “The left is not trying to promote justice or equality or raise the oppressed.”
Trump and his sponsors have spent weeks trying to find a way to discredit protesters, claiming without evidence that violent antifa provocateurs were integrated into the Black Lives Matter protests, targeting largely peaceful activists in the Seattle autonomous zone. as “internal terrorists”. But those appeals played a large role at Trump’s base. Conservatives hope that Americans in general are concerned that protesters will chase non-Confederate statues.
Miller argued that the widespread attacks on statues play on a stereotype that conservatives are pressing for Democrats to join “white bourgeois podcast Marxists” who blame dead white men for all of today’s problems.
“This is all meant to be a bright object to distract [from] address the policies of the people who have been in charge of these cities and communities for decades, ”he said.
Seth Mandel, executive editor of the right-wing magazine Washington Examiner, said Trump is turning the issue into a dichotomy, statues or non-statues, that serves as an indirect battle for ideological culture war. He likened it to the way Trump dealt with wearing masks during the current pandemic – the issue started as a public health debate, but it sometimes became a sign of whether someone supported Trump or not.
“The statues also deserve nuances,” he said. “There are many statues that are legitimately controversial, which means that wanting to tear them down should not be considered nihilistic. But it seems to me a marginal position to say that Jefferson and Washington should also fall. ”
He added: “It would be a shame if the national debate were reduced to statues versus non-statues, rather than a serious debate about what the statues represent.”