Trump hails Confederate names, monuments, and military bases
Trump is embracing all the symbols of the old Confederate States of America. | AP photos / PW illustration

WASHINGTON—Donald Trump said yesterday he would “not even consider” renaming Army installations that honor Confederate traitors who fought to protect an autocratic slave regime in the South that was based on white supremacy. Over 600,000 Americans perished in the Civil War, fighting to stop that dictatorship’s attempt to keep Black people in chains and destroy the United States.

Meanwhile, in the wake of Trump’s racist declarations on Twitter yesterday, Confederate monuments were falling all over the country—some at the hands of people demonstrating against racism in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and others at the instruction of local government officials.

The statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis was hauled down by protesters in Richmond, Va., the old capital of the slave South, within hours of Trump embracing the symbols of the Confederacy.

“Our history as the Greatest Nation in the World will not be tampered with. Respect our Military!” Trump declared, calling the bases named after notorious traitors, “part of a Great American Heritage.”

The president tweeted while Philonise Floyd, George Floyd’s brother, was ending his powerful testimony before Congress yesterday. He called upon lawmakers to listen to the voices of those rising up around the world and “stop the pain.”

Proud of Trump’s barrage of racist tweets, the White House handed out printed copies of them to the press just before Trump staged his provocative “news conference” yesterday. Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, stood up and shamelessly read the tweets to the press at the beginning of the event. She emphasized that the tweets came directly from the president and boasted that “we spent some time working on them.”

In addition to putting forward his usual support for racism and his penchant for staging provocative events designed to worsen the pain Americans are feeling, Trump staged the press conference to dampen moves by some in the military to actually change the names of bases named after Confederate traitors.

Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy had said earlier yesterday that he was prepared to have a “conversation regarding the renaming of Army bases.” The Pentagon had also said that the secretary of Defense and the secretary of the Army were open to a “discussion on the topic.”

The Army has 10 bases named after Confederate traitors, including Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Fort Benning in Georgia, and Fort Hood in Texas.

Along with the statue of Jefferson Davis in Richmond, those of other Confederate generals and slave owners have been toppling one by one in state after state during the current national uprising against racism. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is moving to dismantle the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and other traitors in Richmond.

The Republican Lincoln Project, made up of GOP members who consider Trump a threat to the Constitution, is describing those monuments and the Confederate flag as “symbols of autocracy and hate.”

“That’s what the Confederacy was,” Steve Schmidt, the group’s leader, said this morning. “It was an autocratic dictatorship set up in the South to propagate slavery and hate.”

NASCAR has announced it is banning display of Confederate flags at all of its events, and there are moves in the state of Mississippi to change the state flag, the last in the country to still bear the stars-and-bars Confederate battle flag.

The military is also following suit. The Navy announced Tuesday that it is banning the display of Confederate flags from all public spaces and work areas on Navy installations. Earlier this year, the Marine Corps commandant announced he was banning Confederate flags and symbols from Marine installations.

When asked if the president disagreed with those moves, McEnany said she had not spoken to him about them.

McEnany tried to trivialize the entire push to move away from the display of offensive and racist names and monuments. She mentioned that she disagreed with the decision of HBO Max to remove Gone with the Wind, the movie that romanticizes the lives of slave owners in the South.

“I’m told that no longer can you find Gone With the Wind because somehow it is offensive. Where do you draw the line?” she asked reporters.

Hitler burned countless books by foreign authors when the Nazis seized control in Berlin, Germany, in 1933. Gone with the Wind was one of the books that the Nazis notably did not burn. The novel, in fact, was used in Nazi-run public schools to teach about the Civil War in the United States.

Like the Nazis in Germany, Trump has praised the film adaptation of the book, suggesting earlier this year that he would have preferred it to win the Oscar for best picture over Parasite, the first film foreign language to win. Gone With the Wind, of course, was not eligible for an Academy Award last season, as it was released many decades ago and already received that honor in 1939.

As if spending an entire day wrapping himself in the legacy of the slave South was not enough, Trump topped it off by announcing he will hold his first giant “Make America Great Again” rally since the coronavirus pandemic shut down the country in Tulsa, Okla., next Friday, June 19.

The city has a notorious history of deadly racist violence. It was the site of a 1921 massacre of hundreds of Black people and the total destruction of the Black neighborhood of Greenwood and its entire business district. The murderous riot by white mobs has been called the “single worst incident of racial violence in American history.” Nearly every Black house, church, and business was burned to the ground, leaving survivors homeless.

The date chosen for Trump’s rally also carries historical significance. It will take place on Juneteenth, a date commemorating the end of slavery. For a president who has called Black protesters “thugs” and continually emboldened his white supremacist supporters, the symbolism of choosing Tulsa for his MAGA rally on Juneteenth is undeniable.

It recalls Ronald Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign launch in Philadelphia, Miss., where three Civil Rights workers were murdered. During his speech, Reagan proclaimed, “I believe in state’s rights”—a clear sign to racists and those nostalgic for segregation that he was on their side.

Reports suggest Trump has tapped White House advisor Stephen Miller to write a speech for him on “race relations in America.” Miller has confirmed connections to white nationalist organizations and is believed to have been the architect of the administration’s extreme anti-immigrant border policies and migrant child detentions.

Trump appears determined to cement his place in history as the true successor to Jefferson Davis as the Second President of the Confederate States of America.

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CONTRIBUTOR

John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union's campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and '80s he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.

C.J. Atkins
C.J. Atkins

C.J. Atkins is the managing editor at People's World. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from York University in Toronto and has a research and teaching background in political economy and the politics and ideas of the American left. In addition to his work at People's World, C.J. currently serves as the Deputy Executive Director of ProudPolitics.

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