On the day after President Donald Trump suggested that taking down statues of Confederate heroes could lead to a domino effect of toppling monuments to other famous Americans, The New York Times responded with an editorial headlined, “Mr. Trump Makes a Spectacle of Himself.”
In the editorial, Trump was chided because he “took up many of the talking points of the white nationalists and far-right activists” by claiming that statues such as those of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson would fall once those of Confederates such as Robert E. Lee were toppled.
Things have changed, and quickly.
Barely one week later, the same newspaper is chronicling the zest at which communities are now looking to bring down statues of everyone form 15th century explorers to 20th century politicians, noting that the wave of calls to demolish monuments has “become to some an example of politically correct sentiments gone too far.”
New York City is leaving open the possibility of demolishing a massive statue of Christopher Columbus on the grounds that it marked the beginning of oppression of indigenous peoples. Philadelphia activists have former Mayor Frank Rizzo’s statue in their sights.
Paul Begala, a Democrat strategist, said his party was “driving straight into a trap Trump has set,” saying that it makes the debate not about race but about history.
“While I understand the pain those monuments cause, I just think it in some ways dishonors the debate to allow Trump to hijack it,” said Begala, a former adviser to President Bill Clinton.
One analyst drew a connection between the drive to demolish statues and other liberal actions.
“Yet denouncing America’s Founders, defacing the Lincoln Memorial and taking a knee for The Star-Spangled Banner are not the kinds of behavior most Americans would consider patriotic. Democrats rush to embrace this movement at their political peril. All that soul searching about rebranding the party to bring back white working-class voters goes right out the window,” wrote James S. Robbins in USA Today.
“Meanwhile, Trump is free to talk about infrastructure programs, border control, tax cuts, the war on terrorism and other policy issues that voters care about. And if it looks like Democrats aren’t bursting with enough toxic anger, he can send radical left-wing mobs into the streets with a well-timed tweet,” he wrote.
“And they say Trump is becoming irrelevant? Irrelevant like a fox.”
Others said Trump got it right — that demolishing history should not be rushed.
“If we do this in some willy-nilly way, we will regret it,” said Yale University historian David Blight. “I am very wary of a rush to judgment about what we hate and what we love and what we despise and what we’re offended by.”
“By taking monuments down or hiding them away, we facilitate forgetting,” said Alfred Brophy, a law professor at the University of Alabama. “It purchases absolution too inexpensively. There is a value in owning our history.”
“You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down, of to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name,” Trump said in a press conference that was widely criticized by Republicans and Democrats alike.
“George Washington was a slave owner,” he continued. “So will George Washington now lose his status? Are we going to take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson? Are we going to take down his statue because he was a major slave owner? Are we going to take down his statue?”
Apparently, for many on the left, the answer is “yes,” as even The New York Times has now been forced to admit.
What do you think? Scroll down to comment below.