HOW MUCH DEMOCRACY?
If I had a nickel for every time I’ve watched or read some pundit or egghead tell me over the past two years that this time The Donald has gone too far and surely outraged the American people beyond their outmost limits, I’d be having two toppings on the pizza tonight and have enough left over to take the nephews for ice cream afterward.
All this public outrage, of course, put him into the White House. And don’t let some spin doctor tell you that he’s become less popular whilst there—his favorability rating was 37% on election night, and, though it’s declined marginally at a couple of points, basically, there it still stands.
The most recent of these outrages—as of this writing, of course, since there seems to be a new outrage every few days—was his equating Nazis with people who don’t like Nazis, which (again, as of this writing) he’s since doubled down on twice.
Now, though I certainly get that there’s considerable ethical difference between Nazis and people who like or tolerate them and people who don’t want to get rid of Confederate monuments, it’s interesting to look at the polls on whether John Q. Public wants to keep said monuments up. The ones I’ve seen indicate that anywhere from 54 to 75% want to keep the monuments up. That’s a wide enough range of results that one might question how the poll was conducted or how the question was worded, but, for our thought exercise, let’s stipulate that keeping the monuments would get a majority if a referendum were conducted. And it seems logical that the majorities would be even larger in the localities which have monuments already.
The relentlessly centrist magazine The Week, which examines everything through the prism of symposiums digesting national columnists left, right, and center on the questions of the day, has yet to find a columnist who will defend the Trump postulate of equating Nazis with the people who don’t like them. What then are we to do when there is such a disjoint between polite opinion and the man in the street?
And there is at least one other scenario that could put the cat among the pigeons. There is a nearly continuous situation in America these days where the American Civil Liberties Union and/or various church-state separation activist groups litigate against cities or school districts for having religious symbols on their public property. What often eventuates is that the government bodies involved remove them, and the citizenry simply move them to private property. The citizens congratulate themselves on having outwitted the city slicker atheists yet again, the ACLU or the allied groups seem pretty satisfied too, and all is well. The situation with Confederate monuments seems analogous except for one thing.
It doesn’t seem to me that the activists who want Confederate monuments removed are going to be at all happy with this half a loaf. Every indication I’ve seen points to a goal of getting them gone, and in several cases the monuments have simply been taken out or vandalized by protesters. In most cases, these statues don’t bring in a lot of tourists to see them, but Richmond, Virginia’s cavalcade of statues might be an exception, and Georgia’s Stone Mountain, the Confederate Stone Mountain, is an even better one. Courts are always trying to find a secular purpose for the aforementioned Christian shrines—well, Stone Mountain brings in a lot of tourist money to its area, and what’s a better secular purpose than that? Plus, the carving was originally conceived as a private undertaking, and no doubt there would be plenty of businesses and political groups who’d be just fine with, maybe even prefer, it reverting to private hands. This whole contretemps may be on its way to even further reaches of societal contention.