Running For Reelection, Trump Talks Like He’s Running For President Of The Confederacy
WASHINGTON - Donald Trump is running for a second term as President of the United States, but in the past few weeks he has spoken and written as if he wanted to be the next President of the Confederacy.
Amid a national uproar over the recent murder of a black man by a white police officer in Minneapolis and erosion of his own election numbers, Trump has made the cornerstone of his response a vow to protect monuments and memorials to the leaders of the treacherous rebellion cost 750,000 lives to do so Keep blacks enslaved.
In speeches, Trump vowed to protect "our legacy" as protesters across the country demand removal of monuments to Confederate leaders. He even threatened to veto an important defense law that included a provision that would rename military bases that now honor Confederate commanders.
"These monumental and very powerful bases have become part of a great American heritage," Trump wrote in a statement on June 10, which he published on Twitter.
Trump even directed Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to restore a statue of Confederate General Albert Pike that demolished by protesters in Washington, DC, according to NBC News.
"He obviously believes it is playing with his base," said David Axelrod, the democratic adviser who led the campaign for the first African-American president, Barack Obama, in 2008.
In 2017, after neo-Nazis marched through Charlottesville, Virginia and a counter-protester was killed when one of them drove his car into a crowd, Trump defended them because they wanted to protect a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, and said this had been "very good people on both sides" of the violent rally. In 2019, Trump called Lee a "great general".
White House officials would not answer HuffPost questions about Trump's interest in the Confederacy legacy.
Rick Wilson, a Florida GOP consultant who has advertised the Anti-Trump Lincoln project, said Trump misunderstood the politics of the moment. He said an ad about the Confederation entitled "Flag of Treason" was one of the most popular that his group had made and broadcast.
He added that former Breitbart news publisher Steve Bannon, who led Trump's 2016 campaign in recent months and was a top White House adviser in Trump's first year, was the likely source of Trump's continued support for all things Confederate affairs.
"Bannon sold it because 62% of the voters are white, and we just have to beat their numbers to win," Wilson said of Trump. "He's also a racist."
Bannon did not answer HuffPost's questions about the story.
Trump's Confederate base
Although the president, who freed the slaves during the civil war, was the first candidate of a party set up specifically for this purpose, the Republicans began to sue South Democrats who were annoyed by laws that banned the blacks after the 1954 Supreme Court ruling Brown's help against Board of Education led to the integration of public schools. The process accelerated after Lyndon Johnson's push for the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and was formalized in Richard Nixon's Southern Strategy in 1968.
Since then, Republicans have successfully relied on the former confederation as the election base for presidential campaigns, and Trump was no different.
While the eleven former confederate states accounted for 32% of the country's population in 2016, they accounted for 48% of Trump's votes, according to a HuffPost analysis of voting and population data.
Trump beat Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton with 147 to 13 votes in these states and won the referendum with 52% to 44%. Among the non-Confederate states, Clinton Trump beat the votes by 219 to 159 and won the referendum by 50% to 43%.
Overall, Clinton won the referendum with 48% to 46% and won 3 million additional ballots, but lost 306 to 232 votes in the electoral college.
Trump's vocal enthusiasm for monuments to the Confederacy could help maintain support in part of his electoral base, but it could also eliminate other groups.
Support for the removal of Confederate monuments rose from 27% to 52% in 2017, according to a Reuters survey, according to a Quinnipiac University survey last week.
The week before, NASCAR - long a bastion of fans waving Confederate flags and other iconographies - banished the symbol from its races. And Mississippi, which contains a Confederate flag in the upper left quadrant of its state flag, is moving towards a change.
A Trump flag "Make America Great Again" flies under a Confederate flag at a private campsite at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennesee. NASCAR has recently banned Confederate flags from its tracks. (Photo by Jessica Rinaldi / The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
"If you're on the wrong side of a NASCAR cultural war? Dude," said Stuart Stevens, a seventh-generation Mississippian who worked on the George W. Bush presidential campaign in 2000, when Bush refused to fly the Confederate flag Condemned from South Carolina from the State Capitol has become an issue.
Stevens said the recent protests sparked by the police assassination of George Floyd on May 25 quickly changed public opinion about the Confederation and the Republicans are at risk of being on the wrong side of history.
"We are discussing the legitimacy of the confederation. In 2020. It is just so depressing," he said. "There is no longer any excuse that it is not about white complaints."
White House complaints policy
However, the policy of white complaints has been a feature of Trump's White House from the start. Sebastian Gorka, an extreme right-wing activist and Breitbart editor, was hired as an advisor to the President. Bannon became Trump's "chief strategist," like his first chief of staff. And Stephen Miller, who had worked with Breitbart as a Senate advisor to write articles on immigrants a few years earlier, became Trump's best political advisor and speechwriter. And in recent months, Trump has brought on board Kayleigh McEnany, who was a law student eight years ago, including Trump, and spread the "birth lie" that the first black president was illegally elected because he was not born in the United States.
Given this environment and his own background of years of burning racial segregation, it's no surprise that Trump would take up the history of the Confederacy, critics said.
“Racism is its warm, fluffy blanket. It makes him feel at home, ”said Josh Schwerin, senior strategist at the Democratic Super PAC Priorities USA.
Trump's promise of a veto against the National Defense Authorization Act because of the language of the Confederate names, however, could corner all Republicans.
Trump was so relentless in spreading his confederation-friendly message that at the briefing on June 10, McEnany distributed printed copies of his tweets to reporters and then read them out. She spent much of the day's session defending his stance.
The next day, Trump posted another statement on Twitter, urging Senate Republicans to reject the renaming language. "The seriously failed presidential candidate, Senator Elizabeth" Pocahontas "Warren, has just introduced an amendment to rename many of our legendary military bases from which we have trained to win two world wars. Hopefully our great Republican senators won't fall for that!"
What Trump apparently failed to recognize was that the Senate Armed Forces Committee had already accepted the amendment from Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat. The deletion from the bill would require a vote in the Senate and force all 53 Republicans to speak out on the protection of the Confederacy, which means that the final approval law is now likely to contain the language of the Confederate names.
McEnany said on June 10 that such a requirement would make the bill an "absolute non-starter" for Trump and "the President will not sign laws that will rename America's forts."
To pursue such a threat would be to veto one of the few “must-pass” bills each year that also include service member salary increases, possibly in the weeks leading up to the election - and thus the Confederacy issue in the United States Place foreground and center in front of voters.
And that could saddle every single Republican with Trump's position on the issue, Stevens said. "It's a disaster for these candidates running Trump," he said.
A former White House adviser said the great irony in Trump's concern about the Confederation was that he had such a vague understanding of history that he barely knew any of the names.
"He thought the big statue in Lafayette Park was Lafayette," said the adjutant on condition of anonymity. "Don't make him work."
This central statue is not that of the French and hero of the Revolutionary War, Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis of Lafayette, but of Andrew Jackson, the seventh US president and supposedly Trump's great hero.
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.
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