The Corner

Politics & Policy

R’s, D’s, and the Confederacy

For years, I faced a taunt from Democrats: Nixon had a “southern strategy”; all the segs and Dixiecrats had become Republicans. And I had an answer for them: When they were Dems — when they were Dixiecrats — they were segs. But now they were all normal conservative Republicans.

Take Strom Thurmond: When I came of age (1980s), he was a strong anti-Communist, a hawk, and a supporter of the Reagan revolution. No different from Orrin Hatch, let’s say. (Orrin is a Utah senator, but he comes from Pittsburgh.) When you had him — when Strom was a Dem — he was a seg. So go stuff it.

In Virginia today, there is a gubernatorial race. It pits Ralph Northam (D) against Ed Gillespie (R). The issue of Confederate monuments is big, of course. Northam would like to see them come down. He has also said that he recently discovered that some of his ancestors owned slaves.

The Virginia GOP tweeted that Northam “has turned his back on his own family’s heritage in demanding monument removal.” Northam responded, “I feel fine about turning my back on white supremacy. How does @EdWGillespie feel about the president’s position?” The Virginia GOP — perhaps sensing it was losing — deleted its tweet.

It even apologized. And a Gillespie spokesman issued a statement, saying that the party “was right to apologize for the tweet and to take it down. Though Ed disagrees with the Lieutenant Governor on the issue of statues” — did I mention that Northam is lieutenant governor? — “he knows we can disagree on issues like this without devolving into divisive rhetoric.”

Well, fine. Look: I’m not a babe in the woods. I understand that Gillespie wants to win, as all candidates do. That’s the point of it. I also understand that he’s running in Virginia. (Gillespie grew up in New Jersey, where you don’t have to worry about Confederate monuments. Also, you don’t have slaveholding ancestors, presumably.) When Gillespie ran for the Senate three years ago, I sorely wanted him to win. He just missed it.

But I’d like to say one thing: If the Party of Lincoln becomes the Party of the Confederacy and the Lost Cause, it will have thrown away a great heritage.

It’s good that the Union was preserved. That America held together. It’s good that slavery — legal human bondage — was abolished.

The problem with this monuments controversy is that it is mixed in with PC. All of us on the right hate PC. So if we sense that opposition to a monument is based on PC, our reflex is to defend the monument.

Which is not necessarily right.

People say that monuments are meant to record history, so, in bringing them down, you’re erasing history. That is true in some cases. But a lot of monuments are meant to honor the person depicted — who is not necessarily honorable. Neither are some causes.

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