The man won’t go away. And the South will rise again. And of course Black folks won’t. So the man who won’t go away was outraged:
Former President Trump on Wednesday blasted the decision to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Va., saying it would result in a “complete desecration.”
Trump has defended such statues from being removed in the past, calling activists’ effort a means to “take away” U.S. history and culture by calling for the removal of Confederate statues.
A different statue of Lee served as the site of the deadly protest that was the scene of the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va.
Trump finally settled on what he had to say about that. He hated neo-Nazis but maybe they had a point about that Lee statue. And there were good people on both sides that weekend. And of course he’s still at it:
“Just watched as a massive crane took down the magnificent and very famous statue of ‘Robert E. Lee On His Horse’ in Richmond, Virginia. It has long been recognized as a beautiful piece of bronze sculpture,” Trump said in a statement.
“To add insult to injury, those who support this ‘taking’ now plan to cut it into three pieces, and throw this work of art into storage prior to its complete desecration,” he added.
No, it was disassembled for storage, where it will wait until state decides the appropriate museum for it, where it will be reassembled and put on display there for all to see again. This was moving day. but Trump didn’t see it that way:
Trump then claimed that had Lee been alive, he would have led a successful military operation in Afghanistan.
“Our culture is being destroyed and our history and heritage, both good and bad, are being extinguished by the Radical Left, and we can’t let that happen!” Trump said in his statement. “If only we had Robert E. Lee to command our troops in Afghanistan, that disaster would have ended in a complete and total victory many years ago. What an embarrassment we are suffering because we don’t have the genius of a Robert E. Lee!”
Lee lost his war long ago and said that he wanted to be forgotten. He’d probably refuse another war, but none of this matters much. Trump was just riling up his base. But expect a Fox News Special – “What Lee Would Have Done in Afghanistan!”
Well, maybe not, but the Washington Post had more on this matter:
Workers have removed Virginia’s biggest statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from its towering stone base and cut it into two pieces, ending the monument’s 131-year reign embodying this city’s mythology as the former capital of the Confederacy.
Lee’s surrender came so fast after less than an hour of work Wednesday that hundreds of onlookers were caught by surprise. Workers who had affixed slings to the statue from a cherry picker began waving their arms, urging the crowd to cheer, and one of the workers held up five fingers, then four, then three, two, one, and a crane lifted the statue from its base.
The crowd roared and began singing, “Hey, hey, hey, goodbye!”
These weren’t Trump folks:
Lowered quickly to the ground, the statue of Lee stood looking directly over at the crowd cheering and taunting him from behind barricades. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and other state officials stood looking on, along with Rita Davis, the former counsel to the governor who formulated the legal plan that led Northam to order the statue’s removal.
And that was that:
For some local residents and Black Lives Matter protesters who have targeted the statue as a symbol of oppression since last summer’s social justice rallies, Wednesday morning was almost beyond belief.
“I cried when I saw it come down,” said Deja Spicely, 21, who had to sprint to the scene when she heard the cheers.
“This is just the beginning,” said her husband, Isaiah Robinson, 24. “Some of us have been coming out here every day, and the statue coming down is just the beginning. The hard stuff comes now,” he said, referring to the need for racial equity throughout society.
Trump wouldn’t understand. He wouldn’t want to understand. But he wasn’t invited:
Northam, first lady Pam Northam and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney arrived on the site shortly before 8:30 a.m.
“This day has been a long time coming,” Ralph Northam said. “Things started back in Charlottesville in ‘17 and evolved from there.”
The governor said he encouraged those who continue to defend the statue to go back and read the history of how it got there and what it represents. People such as Lee, he said, “chose to be traitors to the United States and fought against our Constitution to promote slavery.”
And he noted the era in which the Lee monument was built: By 1890, the first freedoms of Reconstruction had produced a flourishing Black society and economy in Richmond and elsewhere, but the White elites were pushing back.
Yes, these statues, and this one, were erected thirty years after the Civil War ended. The world had changed. Black folks were getting far too much power. These statues reminded them to stop that. The South could rise again. They’d better be careful:
The Lee statue was in the middle of a tobacco field at first, but the mansions of Monument Avenue went up over the next 30 years – along with four more Confederate memorials on the thoroughfare. That was the era of Jim Crow: In 1902, Virginia adopted a new constitution that repudiated the equities of Reconstruction and disenfranchised millions of Black voters. That legacy stood until the state’s current constitution was adopted in 1971.
The statues, Northam said, “were really a way to re-fight the Civil War.”
And that’s nonsense, Lee lost. Trump should find a better use for his time:
Overnight, workers had cleared out makeshift memorials to victims of police violence from the grass and pavement around the statue’s base. State officials said the materials would be preserved.
Can we move on now? Probably not. The Washington Post’s Philip Bump explains why not:
There is nothing substantively different about what Donald Trump is now than what he was in 2015.
He is as indifferent to the expectations of elected leadership as he ever was, choosing to recognize the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks with a (presumably paid) gig providing commentary for a boxing match while the other living U.S. presidents visit memorials to those killed on that day.
That would be this event:
Former president Donald Trump is set to provide ringside commentary at a boxing match featuring former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield.
The fight will take place Saturday – on the evening of Sept. 11 – and Trump’s son Donald Jr. will also provide live commentary for the pay-per-view event.
“I love great fighters and great fights,” Trump said in a statement. “I look forward to seeing both this Saturday night and sharing my thoughts ringside. You won’t want to miss this special event.”
Holyfield, 58, is taking on 44-year-old former UFC light heavyweight champion Vitor Belfort in the main event of a card assembled by Triller Fight Club. It will be staged at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.
Does that offend anyone? Well, fuck your feelings. Donald Trump hates political correctness and the Deep State. This is his heroic defiance of both, and Bump Is not surprised:
Trump’s political messaging is the same, centered almost exclusively on a combination of Democrats are doing it wrong and I would do it perfectly, a rhetorical pairing left undamaged by the realities of his presidency. There was never any articulated policy platform from Trump (or his party) in 2020, and there isn’t one now. He wants to be president again, it seems, for the same reason that he did six years ago: because it’s a mark of success and a conduit of power.
But there have been significant changes that surround Trump, changes that overlap with one another. The first is that his voice has lost volume, thanks to his ouster from social media, pushed to interviews with right-wing media outlets and frequent tweet-like statements that his aides hope to present as serious political commentary. The other is that Trump now also has a much larger, much more energetic base of support relative to 2016, one large enough that thousands of people showed up on Jan. 6 to applaud his false claims about why he lost the 2020 election and one large enough that hundreds of them then tried to forcibly prevent Trump from losing the power that the electoral college had handed him in 2016.
That’s an odd mix, and so what happens if and when he announces that he’s going to seek the Republican nomination in 2024? Bump sees this:
To be clear, this is not as certain as it might seem. We all should have learned in 2015 that predicting Trump won’t run is a fool’s game, but it does seem like Trump enjoys campaigning far more than he did actually having to be president. He liked Space Force and “Hail to the Chief” and pardoning his allies and being the guy who got to give the thumbs down to international terrorists, yes, but there was never any indication that he enjoyed having to be responsible for a pandemic or a hurricane in Puerto Rico. To the extent that he had desired policy outcomes, they were mostly derivations of “undercut the ways that government inconveniences Donald Trump personally.”
So that leaves this:
If Trump runs for president in 2024, he’s running as the guy who tried to steal the election from Biden as he claimed that Biden had stolen it from him. He’s running not as he did in 2015, as an outsider to the politics game. He’s running, instead, as a representation of an anti-democratic undercurrent in right-wing politics with the support of people who’ve triggered repeated warnings from law enforcement about their willingness to use violence in defense of Trump’s claims.
Remember what happened when Trump ran in 2015 and 2016? He repeatedly encouraged his supporters both tacitly and explicitly to physically attack the demonstrators who showed up at his rallies. One study found a link between his rallies and reported assaults.
That was when he was a candidate on his way to losing the popular vote by a bigger margin than any elected president in history. In 2020, he received more votes than any prior incumbent president, as he will be the first to mention.
This is in part a function of population growth, but it’s also a function of his building more energetic support during his time in office. It’s a base that’s comfortable with Trump’s dishonesty and conspiracy theories in a way it wasn’t in 2015. It’s a base whose energy manifests in large rallies at which attendees berate the media. It manifested on Jan. 6 at his rally at the White House and at the Capitol. It manifests in the response to the arrests that followed the Capitol riot and in the emerging argument that those who were arrested are the equivalent of political prisoners. Law enforcement is warning about the danger of an upcoming D.C. rally centered on those arrests.
This will not be pretty, as most inevitable things are not pretty:
Trump has always been as much a follower of the fringe right’s obsessions as a driver of them. He won in 2016 in part because he reflected the complaints of the far-right back at them, unbound by the political propriety of doing so. He is championed by extremist groups such as the Proud Boys in part because they see him as a vehicle for their desired outcomes, not because he inspires the outcomes they seek.
They’re just useful to him, as he is top them, but he’s now or soon will be mocking them:
When Trump announced his candidacy in 2015, the coverage evolved from treating him as a novelty to treating him as a surprising contender to folding him into traditional coverage patterns, usually undeservedly. If he announces his 2024 candidacy shortly, how will he be covered? As another presidential contender? As a guy who tried his hardest, however shambolically, to steal the 2020 election? As someone who isn’t Biden, so: good enough?
Who knows? This is a mess, but maybe David Atkins knows something. He sees this:
Trump didn’t really take over or save the Republican Party. Trump’s greatest gift to Republicans is also his greatest curse: He gave them permission to be their worst selves. By liberating the GOP to embrace its most noxious impulses, he has breathed new life into the staid culture that nominated John McCain and Mitt Romney while destroying basic norms of public decency and weakening the guardrails of democracy. This has come at a devastating cost to the victims of the hatreds Trump fueled. Despite short-term appearances, unmasking the GOP base’s most vicious instincts might also be disastrous for the party in the long term.
It’s not that the animating ethos of the GOP was terribly different before Trump. It was the party of Watergate, Iran-Contra, the southern strategy, Willie Horton ads, Newt Gingrich, Brooks Brothers riots, Valerie Plame outings, Freedom Fries, Iraq invasion lies, Social Security slashing, Benghazi hearings, and Mitch McConnell–led Supreme Court seat theft. Simply put, the party was never fundamentally decent in any way.
Before Trump, however, it at least pretended to be. The party cloaked its inherent viciousness in Reagan’s sunny smile, baseball, Mom, apple pie, Abraham Lincoln, and George Washington. Since the turn of the civil rights era, the GOP’s id always belonged to Roy Cohn and Roger Stone, but it was carefully kept hidden behind a veil of cordial respectability. The Fox News era slowly began the process of unmasking -but even Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity tried to hide behind avuncular charm and high school quarterback looks, portraying themselves as the steady voices of decent, normal America.
All of that pretense is now gone.
And that leaves this:
Today’s Republican politics is deliriously brazen and overtly cruel, finding its glory in taking and using power by any means necessary—and behaving openly hostile to both democracy and norms of decency. There is no good-faith attempt in Republican-controlled states or Congress to govern to solve problems. There is only an endless stream of legislation designed to secure anti-majoritarian power, harm Democratic constituencies, or get the attention of the culture-war-obsessed conservative media propaganda organs that actually dictate who thrives and perishes in the GOP. Stop the libs from taking power at all costs; own the libs however you can; get hits on Fox News, Newsmax, and OAN. There is nothing else. It worked for Trump – why wouldn’t it work for all the rest?
Expect that, and this:
Given to rural conservative whites in virtually all state and federal elections are only growing bigger. Education and urban-rural polarization have given Republicans hefty, well-distributed benefits even before factoring in gerrymandering. The filibuster makes it practically impossible for non-budgetary liberal priorities to advance, while allowing conservatives an easy pass to get the tax cuts and judges they care about most. And the conservative media is reliably in the tank for Republicans, pushing the Overton windows and sanitizing the most extreme voices, no matter how horrifically they govern. Meanwhile, the “liberal” media is quick to pounce on Democratic politicians for even minor setbacks in an effort to prove their neutral bona fides, while consistently helping conservative media to marginalize effective progressive voices. So pessimism rules—and perhaps rightfully so.
But there is also reason to wonder if the Republican Party might not be digging its own grave. Politics is a fluid business. Few in the early 1960s would have predicted the enormity of the southern shift to the GOP. Democrats in the early 2000s would have been shocked to see their gains in the reliable suburbs and among mail-in voters by 2020. Who in 2008 would have predicted Florida becoming a consistently red state, with Georgia sending Black and Jewish Democratic senators to Washington in special elections? Coalitions shift rapidly, as do zeitgeists.
The cracks are starting to show. Trump is deeply unpopular by historic margins for an ex-president, yet he appears poised to hoist his flag for another presidential run. Other Republican hopefuls may or may not sit quietly by.
This could get ugly, and then add this:
Republicans are also engaged in an anti-public-health campaign that can objectively be described as pro-COVID-19 and pro-death. Case and death rates are exploding in Republican-led states – including among children – such as Florida and Ohio. Republican governors and Fox News hosts seem willing to kill tens of thousands of their own voters and viewers, respectively, in large part to create economic headwinds for the Biden administration more than a year before the midterm elections. It could work. But it could also generate enormous public backlash as COVID-19 increasingly becomes the MAGA plague.
Then, of course, there are the biggest hot-button issues in the culture war: guns and abortion. Republican states have responded to national outrage over gun violence by going full Wild West with unregulated carry laws. In Texas, they’ve essentially overturned Roe v. Wade by deputizing citizen lawsuit vigilantes against women, abortion providers, and even rideshare drivers. Worse yet, federal courts filled with GOP appointees have decided to sit back and let it happen. The influence of radical evangelical pastors on Republican politics is only growing, with Bible-thumpers taking a larger share of the GOP stage at a time when the church itself is cratering in attendance and popularity.
This isn’t working:
This might all seem brilliantly, if diabolically, Machiavellian, but there’s a problem with a well-distributed anti-majoritarian coalition that wins elections despite being outnumbered nationally. It doesn’t take big shifts in the population or the turnout model to breach the walls. You can take over government by winning five-point margins in congressional districts and states. But not if those five-point margins suddenly become competitive due to turnout or coalition shifts.
Trump gave Republicans his permission to be themselves. It “worked” for a time at the expense of the country, and now it’s not working.
That’s what must be done. The man will not go away. But he can be ignored.