At the particular White House press briefing Wednesday, spokeswoman Sarah Sanders defended Key of Staff John Kellyâs comment that the Civil War resulted from the failure to âcompromiseâ by each sides. Kelly told Fox Information that Confederate Gen. Robert Electronic. Lee was âan honorable manâ who âgave up his country to fight for his state, which 150 years ago was more important than country,â and that âthe lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War, and men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand.â Historians called this particular view âstrangeâ and âhighly provocative,â yet Sanders, defending Kelly, told reporters, âBecause you donât like history doesnât mean you can erase it.â
An uproar about the causes of the particular Civil War shouldnât surprise those who have been following Trumpâs White Home. The president, the chief of personnel and other senior White House helps have established a pattern of making use of history â? especially issues associated with race and âheritageâ â? because political weapons, promoting historical common myths popular with Trumpâs overwhelmingly white foundation of supporters.
Using history within the service of politics is not innately a bad thing. Every politician â? virtually everybody in elective or even appointed office â? invokes earlier times at one time or another to advance a policy, warrant legislation or score points along with voters. Politicians, understandably, view their particular decisions on hard issues with the lens of their own experiences and their particular interpretations of the past guide their particular sense right and wrong.
And the use of history can indeed light up some complicated policy debates. Throughout the 2001 debate over President George W. Bushâs trillion-dollar-plus tax-cut strategy, for example , Democrats argued that Ronald Reaganâs 1981 tax cuts eventually yielded much higher federal deficits, proof against the proposition that cutting taxes rates would stimulate the economic climate to the point of actually increasing income. They werenât wrong. During the 2002 debate about the congressional resolution permitting the use of force in Iraq, a few war opponents warned that invading Iraq would lead to another âquagmireâ like Vietnam, a war by which more than 58, 000 Americans passed away.
These are debates worth getting. Why did the U. Ersus. lose the War in Vietnam? What were the roots associated with stagflation in the 1970s? What brought on the economic expansion of the Clinton years? These legitimate questions may illuminate policy discussions, even if these people yield complicated answers. But remarks about the Civil War coming from the management constitute something altogether different and also downright dangerous.
As Columbia University or college history Stephanie McCurry told the particular Washington Post, Kellyâs remarks monitor very closely with âthe Jim Crow version of the causes of the Civil Warâ plus âall of the major talking points of this pro-Confederate view of the Civil War.â Kellyâs comments are also âprofoundly ignorant,â as Yale historian David Blight succinctly put it. The South seceded and waged war against the Northern to defend their power to enslave an incredible number of African-Americans, as historians have shown by means of decades of scholarship.
Kelly plus Sandersâs comments also reflect a continuous Trump-sanctioned effort to weaponize background to rally white conservative voters on behalf of the most embattled first-term chief executive since the advent of polling. Recall that will in February 2016, Trump informed CNNâs Jake Tapper that he wouldnât reject the support of previous Ku Klux Klan Grand Sorcerer David Duke. Trump gave because his rationale, âI know nothing about white supremacistsâ or Brian Duke, and he had to study all of them first before saying or doing anything at all. (He did eventually âdisavowâ Dukeâs support. ) But his refusal was actually a way of invoking the Klanâs history as a white-colored supremacist organization that conducted the reign of terror against African-Americans in the 19thÂ and early 20thÂ centuries in order to appeal to white Southerners who nevertheless harbored racist views.
Trump has argued that in the recent past the particular politicians have sold out the Oughout. S. to foreign countries (Japan and Germany in the 1980s; Cina and Mexico today), enriching politics elites while Americans suffered. Whenever Trump became a leading advocate from the preposterous charge that President Barack Obama was not born in the Oughout. S., he sent a clear information to some of Obamaâs most hardcore critics (who would become Trump voters): the nationâs first African-American president was not a natural-born resident and thus ineligible to be president. Trump was drawing on a shameful background in which white Americans denied the particular rights of African-Americans, treating all of them as less than full citizens, in order to promulgate the idea that an African-American really should not be the leader of the free world.
Under the Trump administration, history is becoming more than a reference point in quarrels about policy; it has become the comparative of Teddy Rooseveltâs âbig stick,â which usually Trump uses anytime he seems threatened politically. Trump and his group twist facts and distort actuality about some fairly basic queries of the American past for the apparent purpose of ensuring that Trumpâs overwhelmingly whitened base stays loyal to your pet. It gives cover to a White Home under siege from prosecutors, the particular press and a large majority of the particular electorate opposed to his conduct within office.
Matthew Dallek, an associate professor at George Wa Universityâs Graduate School of Politics Management, is theÂ author of Defenseless Under the Night: The Roosevelt Yrs and the Origins of Homeland Security
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