Best columns: The U.S.
Marble men who fought for slavery
When I saw TV images of crews dismantling the massive statue of Jefferson Davis in New Orleans, said Garrett Epps, I felt a breathless “mixture of elation, disorientation, and bitter envy.” I grew up in Richmond, Va., where monumental sculptures of Confederate heroes—Davis, Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Jeb Stuart—still haunt the city “like motionless ghosts.” We were “taught to believe that these marble men— who staked their lives and fortunes to fight for chattel slavery—were the equals of the nation’s founders,” and certainly far superior to the likes of Abraham Lincoln. Constructed by defiant Southerners in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, those hulking monuments weren’t innocent historical artifacts. They rose over the old Confederacy even as its rebellion was being resurrected in the form of segregation laws, Jim Crow, and lynchings—a legacy of racial hatred that left the region “poorer, more violent, less welcoming, less democratic, less healthy, less educated, and less livable.” It is not possible to revere the South’s defeated leaders and their Lost Cause and “believe that black Americans are equal.” Like the statues of Stalin in Eastern Europe, and of Saddam in Iraq, the monuments to the Confederacy “should come down, all of them.”
The word that defines our politics
“For the past couple of years, the most important word in American politics has been the worst—‘rigged,’” said Rich Lowry. The word now emerges during every political debate, with every side convinced it’s being victimized by a grand conspiracy. “Rigged” first became popular because of the Left’s anti-globalization movement and “Occupy Wall Street,” which insisted the economy had been transformed to favor the very richest. Bernie Sanders made “the rigged economy” the centerpiece of his Democratic presidential campaign, and Hillary Clinton later took up the cry. Republicans then nominated a candidate who insisted that everything was “rigged” against him and those who supported him—trade, the economy, immigration rules, the political system. When Donald Trump said the election itself was “rigged,” Democrats called it a threat to democracy itself—but “when he pulled off a stunning upset,” they insisted “the election had been stolen in a smoke-filled room somewhere in the Kremlin.” Now, blaming “shadowy forces” for whatever you don’t like is undeniably comforting. But it assigns all responsibility to some external enemy and inevitably leads to demands for vengeance. Today, the cry “We wuz robbed!” is “the one thing that unites the Right and Left.”
The perils of anti-anti- Trumpism
The New York Times
We conservatives used to be united by strong principles—respect for “ordered liberty,” the separation of powers, and the rule of law, said Charles Sykes. But that’s all been chucked overboard in a desperate attempt to defend our distinctly unconservative president, Donald Trump. In the conservative media, it’s poor form to admit doubts about Trump’s competence. So “rather than defend President Trump’s specific actions,” the Right now takes refuge in being “anti-anti-Trump”—that is, attacking the liberals who are apoplectic over his wild statements and impulsive actions. If what Trump does “makes liberal heads explode,” antianti- Trumpists like Rush Limbaugh insist, “then it must be wonderful.” In their desperation, Trump’s champions also blame his daily disasters on “fake news,” or hide behind “whataboutism,” as in “What about Obama and Clinton?” There is no intellectual honesty in this blind partisanship, “no fixed values, no respect for constitutional government or ideas of personal character.” It’s not conservatism. And as anti-anti- Trumpists stand by their man, they will be forced “into defending and rationalizing ever more outrageous conduct.”