This post has been updated. (6:33 p.m.)
On Friday, The Post published an opinion piece by Christine Emba, “Protests against removing Confederate monuments are not really about history.” Even though she promotes some of the usual liberal pieties, I think Emba has a point and Republicans should take some of it to heart. The message is that we have nothing to hide from. Democrats often want to use the race card in baiting Republicans, but Republicans have no interest in defending those who let the fight for slavery define their legacy.
As a matter of convenience, liberals always try to demonize Republicans. They define racial issues as people of color vs. the GOP. And, Republicans are on notice. We must constantly work to avoid the stereotype Democrats and their allies in the media want us to have.
In addition to Emba’s article, The Post published a piece by Keith Gaby last year that the GOP can learn from to become more clear and consistent on matters concerning Confederate statues in public spaces. Gaby wrote that the George Washington Memorial Parkway does not commend Washington because he was a slave-owner, but rather honors his contributions as a Founding Father. He argues, “if a school, bridge or town is named to recognize a person’s positive contribution to society, it should stay — even if that person has other negative associations. … We can’t erase the messiness of history, but we can make judgments about what causes to celebrate.”
Similar to the test Gaby established to determine whether Confederate statues ought to stay or be removed: If a child asks what someone did that earned them a statue and the only possible answer is that he fought in the Civil War to defend slavery, then the statue should go. It is that simple. But, if a statue or other tribute honors someone such as Thomas Jefferson, who, like Washington, was a slave owner, and history confirms his life’s work and contributions to the public good were not in furtherance of slavery, then it should remain. Republicans need to be clear with this message and have a clean break with the Confederacy.
And while we are at it, there is no escaping the fact that the left is hypocritical in deciding when, why and with whom it picks fights. For instance, when was the last time you heard anyone cry foul over the Democratic icon, Eleanor Roosevelt’s anti-Semitism early in her life? The reality is that Roosevelt’s disposition towards Jews, however hateful and bigoted it once was, did not define her role in America. No one is arguing that she doesn’t deserve a favorable spot in our history, right? No, Roosevelt gets a pass. Her behavior is explained away by saying she was subject to the prejudices of her day.
Even Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va), who served in Congress for nearly 60 years until 2010, is seemingly detached within the Democrats’ collective memory from his time as an active member of the KKK. I will admit, Byrd was no George Wallace. At least Byrd did not seek votes simply because he was racist.
And yet, the modern-day crusaders of the liberal “resistance” try to paint Republicans as slavery sympathizers. Enough is enough.
Republicans must not let themselves be defined by the actions of a few which promote the Confederacy as part of the Republican brand. Corey Stewart, for instance, who is running for Virginia’s Republican gubernatorial nomination, was endorsed by members of the neo-Confederate movement in April. He has even referred to calls to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee as “historical vandalism.” In fact, he seems to be trying to distinguish himself as a protector of Confederate symbols. People such as Stewart have no place in the Republican Party. (I don’t vote in Virginia but have contributed to Ed Gillespie.) I hope President Trump says so before the Virginia GOP primary.
Moving past our nation’s darkest period is not a Republican or Democratic issue. We can all agree that the statues in New Orleans, Richmond and elsewhere that serve only to celebrate the lives of those who fought for slavery should no longer have a place in the public square. But for anyone on the left to make the argument that Republicans tend to be racist and nostalgic about slavery is dishonest, and Republicans should not be shy about saying so.