The post-Charlottesville statue destruction frenzy is about power, but it may backfire in the voting booth.
Charlottesville is being exploited to justify some of the worst aspects of the leftist culture war.
Internet censorship by left-leaning internet oligopolies based on demonization of political opposition as “hate” and “extremist” groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center is one aspect.
But the culture war has moved with rapid speed to statues and monuments and names, and it’s not stopping at the confederacy. Protesters are taking matters into their own hands and defacing or destroying statues, like this memorial to Christopher Columbus in Baltimore, the oldest such monument in the U.S.:
After weeks of statue-tearing down frenzy, George Orwell’s passage from 1984 is getting quoted a lot:
“Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.”
A good case on how the statue purge is escalating is the push to remove the statue of former Philadephia police commissioner Frank Rizzo.
The Philadephia Inquirer reported on August 15, After Charlottesville, spotlight falls on Rizzo memorials:
As many Philadelphians watched in horror as protests over the planned removal of a statue memorializing Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Va., turned to deadly violence, a number of them had the same thought.
They turned their attention to Center City’s Thomas Paine Plaza and its statue of Frank L. Rizzo, the former law-and-order mayor and police commissioner known for tough, even brutal, tactics aimed at minorities including African Americans and homosexuals.
Now, several members of City Council are calling for the Rizzo statue’s retirement. City Councilwoman Helen Gym said she intends to initiate a public process as soon as Council comes back to session in September to explore whether the statue should be relocated or decommissioned. She said it was not clear how that process would unfold….
Meanwhile, a second likeness of Rizzo, in South Philadelphia’s Italian Market, has over the last several years become the most frequently defaced mural in the city. Jane Golden, head of Philadelphia Mural Arts, said that she intends to initiate discussions about whether the Rizzo mural ought to be removed, too.
Legally, it may not be so easy to remove the Rizzo statue, as The Inquirer further reports:
The city owns the statue outright. As such, it has the right to relocate, remove, or destroy it. But first, it must provide written notice to the organization that provided it, in this case a citizens’ committee chaired by Frank Rizzo Jr. And unless “the city determines that the immediate destruction of the work is necessary to protect the health, safety or welfare of the public,” the city must give the provider of the statue the chance to remove it first. If the city were to destroy the statue, it would have to give the provider six months’ advance notice.
However, the city intends to adhere to a policy it developed in 2012 on deaccessioning public art. On Tuesday, Mayor Kenney said the city Art Commission would need to conduct hearings in advance of any decision and that it would be up to the commission to vote on the fate of the statue.
What happened next is not really surprising. Protesters are taking matters into their own hands, City teacher charged in altercation with police at Rizzo statue protest:
A Philadelphia public school teacher has been charged in connection with an altercation with police during a protest near the controversial statue of Frank Rizzo, the city’s former mayor and police commissioner, outside the Municipal Services Building earlier this month, authorities said Saturday.
John Edward Sheerin, 63, of the 6200 block of Hasbrook Avenue in the city’s Crescentville section, was arrested without incident Friday night and charged with terroristic threats and harassment for allegedly making verbal threats of violence to a Philadelphia police officer, police said.
The alleged incident occurred on Aug. 16 at the 10-foot bronze statue at 15th Street and John F. Kennedy Boulevard, across from City Hall. Thousands of demonstrators surrounded the statue and called for its removal….
The Rizzo statue was defaced last week with the message “Black Power” spray-painted in white. City workers power-washed the message from the statue, which has been egged in recent weeks. A mural of Rizzo in South Philadelphia was defaced with spray paint last weekend.
The public purging of statutes, however, does not seem to reach liberal darlings like Franklin Roosevelt (who put Japanese-Americans in internment camps) or Bill Clinton (whose “superpredator” approach led to the explosion of black imprisonment).
This isn’t about substance, it’s about power and riling up the Democratic base, as The NY Times reports, Far From Dixie, Outcry Grows Over a Wider Array of Monuments:
“Just because Philadelphia wasn’t a part of the Confederacy doesn’t mean we get a pass,” Ms. Gym said in an interview. She is less concerned about turning off voters who support the president than in rousing members of the Democratic base, including minorities, who did not vote in November.
“My concern is about the number of people who stayed home, who felt government doesn’t speak for them,” she said. “I’m trying to show government can be reflective in a time of anguish.”
This all could backfire, as The Times further reported:
Paul Begala, the Democratic strategist, said his party was “driving straight into a trap Trump has set,” because the president seeks to shift the focus away from comments he made about white supremacists to his charge that opponents are trying to “take away our history.”
“While I understand the pain those monuments cause,” said Mr. Begala, who was an adviser to President Bill Clinton, “I just think it in some ways dishonors the debate to allow Trump to hijack it.” ….
Andrew Young, the former Atlanta mayor and civil rights leader, has argued against calls to remove the enormous carved tableau of Confederate leaders on Stone Mountain, Ga., and other Confederate monuments, saying those disputes make more enemies than friends and distract from more substantive issues.
“I personally feel that we made a mistake in fighting over the Confederate flag here in Georgia, or that that was an answer to the problem of the death of nine people to take down the Confederate flag in South Carolina,” he said, referring to the deadly shooting at a landmark black church in Charleston in 2015. He added, “I’m always interested in substance over symbols.”
Polling indicates widespread support for KEEPING confederate statues, as HuffPo reports:
Americans are generally unsupportive of attempts to remove memorials honoring Confederate leaders, new polling shows ― although the way the question is framed may make a significant difference.
In a new HuffPost/YouGov poll, a third of Americans favor removing statues and memorials of Confederate leaders, with 49 percent opposed. Just 29 percent of Americans favor changing the names of streets, schools and buildings commemorating Confederate leaders, while half are opposed.
Those surveyed are effectively split on whether the Confederate flag is more a symbol of Southern pride (36 percent) or racism (35 percent), with the rest unsure or saying it represents neither. But even if Americans don’t overwhelmingly recognize the flag as a symbol of racism, there’s also little widespread enthusiasm for its use. Just 34 percent of Americans say they approve of displaying the Confederate flag in public, while 47 percent disapprove.
It seems that Trump, as usual, has read the public mood (or perhaps, helped shape it) more so than the activists, other politicians, and pundits.
James Robbins writes in USA Today, Trump is winning the statue war:
Just last month, Democrats were talking about how they needed to rebrand their party around a positive message. They wanted to move beyond simple anti-Trumpism and identity politics, and craft an economic appeal to the white working-class voters who deserted them in 2016.
Now here we are with Democrats going all in to refight the Civil War. Well done.
A glance at the electoral map shows how foolish this is. Donald Trump triumphed in 2016 by increasing Republican margins in a swath of northern counties stretching from western Pennsylvania across the Great Lakes, netting him Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and the presidency. Voters there are more likely to see this issue as a radical temper tantrum than anything affecting their daily lives.
Polling gives reason for skepticism. An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll last week found that 62% of respondents thought statues honoring leaders of the Confederacy should “remain as a historical symbol.” Only 27% of those polled wanted the statues removed, and presumably they vote Democratic anyway. Perhaps party leaders see this issue as a way to motivate the minority base that failed to energize for Hillary Clinton, but even among African Americans, a 44% plurality said let the statues stay. So it’s just bad politics.
The statue-destruction frenzy is about power. But it may backfire in the voting booth.DONATE
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