If those on the left sincerely wish to address America’s historical injustices, rather than simply pursue partisan advantage, they should advocate the removal and purification of the hundreds of tributes to Democrats who oppressed blacks and other minorities.
• They should start by being honest when they resist statues of P. G. T. Beauregard, Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, and other luminaries of the slave-owning South. These were not Republicans, as the Trump-hating Left hopes to convince people who don’t know much about history. Rather, these Confederates were all Democrats.
Also, liberals accuse Republicans of using “dog whistles” to elicit canine-like loyalty among allegedly racist whites. But it was Theophilus Eugene “Bull” Connor, Alabama’s Democratic National Committeeman and Birmingham’s commissioner of public safety, who deployed dogs against civil-rights activists in May 1963.
• As former governor Mike Huckabee (R., Ark.) suggested on Fox News Channel, Democrats should stop holding Jefferson-Jackson dinners. These honor President Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and slaveholder, and President Andrew Jackson, victorious defender of New Orleans against the British in the War of 1812, slaveowner, and tormentor of American Indians along the Trail of Tears. Hillary Clinton headlined the Virginia Democrats’ Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner on June 26, 2015, one of several that Democrats organized in recent years. Huckabee suggested that blacks boycott these gatherings until Democrats rename them.
• If you’re an American woman, or happen to know one, give thanks for Susan B. Anthony (who had some Republican leanings, but was not formally affiliated with either party). She was the most prominent advocate for securing women the right to vote. If David Bowie’s Suffragette City were a real destination, Susan B. Anthony would be its mayor. Last Election Day, hundreds of women who cast their presidential ballots for Hillary Clinton covered Anthony’s tombstone in Rochester, N.Y., with “I Voted” stickers. Most of these females would be startled to learn that Anthony’s fervent support for suffrage covered women, but did not extend to blacks. She once said: “I will cut off this right arm of mine before I will ever work or demand the ballot for the Negro and not the woman.” In an 1872 speech, Anthony rejected “an oligarchy . . . which ordains all men sovereigns, all women subjects,” but accepted that “an oligarchy of race, where the Saxon rules the African, might be endured.” As for the timing of gaining voting rights, Anthony wrote in 1869, “If intelligence, justice, and morality are to have precedence in the government, let the question of the woman be brought up first and that of the negro last.” Why aren’t Democrats leading the charge to remove Susan B. Anthony’s bust from the Portrait Monument in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda and scrape her visage from the one-dollar coin?
• Democratic president Woodrow Wilson headed Princeton University, signed the Federal Reserve Act, commanded U.S. forces in World War I, and pioneered multilateralism through the League of Nations. These were momentous achievements, like them or not. Wilson also was a raving bigot who resegregated the bathrooms in the federal building beside the White House. He hosted a 1915 screening of D. W. Griffith’s pro-KKK epic Birth of a Nation at the Executive Mansion. Wilson said: “It’s like writing history with lightning.” Wilson also said: “Segregation is not a humiliation but a benefit.” Why have Democrats not already pried this man’s name from Washington, D.C.’s Woodrow Wilson Bridge?
• Democratic president Franklin Delano Roosevelt piloted the New Deal, pioneered Social Security, and orchestrated the defeat of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan — enormous accomplishments, no doubt. But during World War II, whose satisfying conclusion he nearly lived to enjoy, FDR locked up roughly 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry in 10 internment centers, including California’s Manzanar camp, solely due to their heritage. Also, as Woodrow Wilson’s assistant secretary of the Navy, Roosevelt signed the August 8, 1916, order to resegregate the bathrooms in the State, War, and Navy Departments Building “for the use of women, white men and Colored.” Thus, Democrats should be thrilled to dismantle Washington, D.C.’s FDR Monument and sandblast his face from the dime.
• The Russell Senate Office Building is named after the late senator Richard Russell. The Democrat represented Georgia for 38 years and sponsored the National School Lunch Program in 1946. He also was a major segregationist who railed against civil rights. Russell considered whites superior to blacks. As he once said: “I am willing to go as far and make as great a sacrifice to preserve and insure white supremacy in the social, economic, and political life of our state as any man who lives within her borders.” Why do Senate Democrats and their staffers allow Richard Russell’s shadow to dim their workplace? It should be renamed after Senator Hiram Revels. The Mississippi Republican was seated in February 1870, the first black American to serve in the Senate. Blanche Bruce, another black Mississippi Republican, was seated in 1875, but Democrats soon sank Reconstruction, dooming black political prospects in the South. No other black American reached the Senate from the South until South Carolina’s then-governor Nikki Haley named fellow Republican Tim Scott to fill a U.S. Senate vacancy in January 2013. Senator Scott subsequently has won that seat.
In contrast, the Dirksen Senate Office Building is named after Senator Everett McKinley Dirksen, the Illinois Republican who rallied 26 (among 32 other) GOP senators, stymied a Democratic filibuster, and clinched passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act — the cornerstone of U.S. civil-rights law.
• Former president Bill Clinton remembered his fellow Democrat, Arkansan, and Rhodes Scholar in The American Oxonian as “the great Senator, my mentor.” Clinton praised Senator Fulbright as “the heir to Jefferson in our time.” Clinton added: “It gave us tremendous hope to know that we had a Senator in Washington who could double the I.Q. of any room he walked into.” Fulbright is best known as the father of the Fulbright Scholarship, a federally funded student-exchange program that has assisted some 360,000 students from the U.S. and 140 foreign nations. Fulbright also edited and signed the segregationist Southern Manifesto, battled key civil-rights legislation, and decried “Jewish influence” in Congress in 1973. Clinton’s encomium ignored his mentor’s segregationism. Clinton did not mention it in passing, nor even as something that Fulbright grew to regret, or about which he eventually whispered his misgivings to his protégé. Democrats should insist that the $125 million Fulbright Scholarship be rechristened the Everett McKinley Dirksen Scholarship program.
Sen. Robert Byrd was an Exalted Cyclops of the Ku Klux Klan, for which he recruited some 150 fresh Klansmen in the 1940s.
• A statue of the late U.S. senator Robert Byrd (D., W.Va.) stands in the U.S. Capitol. Some 55 bridges, highways, dams, and other facilities in Byrd’s state carry his name. These honor Byrd’s 51 years in the Senate, including 12 as Democratic leader, as recently as 1989. Byrd told the late Fox News anchor Tony Snow this about race relations in March 2001: “There are white niggers. I’ve seen a lot of white niggers in my time; I’m going to use that word.” Byrd led the 83-day Democratic filibuster against the 1964 Civil Rights Act and spoke nonstop for its defeat for 14 hours on the Senate floor. Senators Byrd, Russell, Fulbright, and Albert Gore Sr. were among the segregationist Democrats who filibustered to keep Jim Crow alive. The Left breathlessly claims that these and other prominent racist Dixiecrats became Republicans, but with the notable exception of the late Senator Strom Thurmond (R., S.C.), they all died as Democrats. Byrd also was an Exalted Cyclops of the Ku Klux Klan, for which he recruited some 150 fresh Klansmen in the 1940s. Byrd wrote the KKK’s Imperial Wizard in 1946: “The Klan is needed today as never before, and I am anxious to see its rebirth here in West Virginia.” Why have Democrats not cleansed the Capitol of this former Klansman’s image, and urged West Virginians to do likewise?
The Right can pursue these facts along one of two paths:
Republicans and conservatives could hammer Democrats and liberals pitilessly as grotesque hypocrites who fail to repudiate and erase those on their side of the aisle who spent time, energy, and even government resources to abuse and terrorize blacks and other minorities. The very least the Left should do is refer to Democrat Robert E. Lee, Democrat Jefferson Davis, and Democrat Stonewall Jackson before they haul down their statues and catapult them onto the ash heap of history.
Alternatively, Republicans and conservatives could remind Democrats and the Left that their heroes, like nearly all human beings, blend good and bad, triumphs and tribulations, talents and shortcomings, though some display these contrasts more starkly than others. Americans could dislodge virtually every statue ever sculpted. JFK, LBJ, and MLK were unfaithful husbands. Winston Churchill drank his way through World War II and screamed at his staff. Lincoln suspended habeas corpus. Every critic today should beware of presentism: judging people from 50, 150, or 500 years ago based on 2017’s fragile sensitivities. Put another way, come 2217, some things taken for granted now will make savages of today’s sophisticates.
Before the tributes to Jefferson, Lee, or even Roosevelt crash down into chunks of stone and hunks of steel, the time is now for a cease-fire in the War on Statues. Instead, Americans should leave these works of art in peace, erect new statues of admirable people, and install bronze plaques to outline the good, the bad, and the ugly about those preserved in metal and marble. Every American would learn from that approach — not least, an urgent reminder about the angels and demons wrestling within each of us.