Pelosi: There's a difference between taking down statues of Confederates and statues of Washington and Jefferson

I agree, and I’m glad she thinks so. Although she would have said this even if she doesn’t think so considering how poorly the idea of removing statues of Washington polls.

Does her party agree with the distinction she draws in the clip below, though?

Last week YouGov asked Americans how they feel about removing statues of Confederate generals from public property. Overall the country is mildly opposed to the idea, but Democrats are strongly in favor:

Fine. YouGov then went on to ask, “Should statues of American presidents who were slaveholders, like Washington, Jefferson, and Jackson, be removed?” Result:

Democrats do agree with her on balance that the Founding Fathers, even Founding Fathers who owned slaves, are different. But the split isn’t overwhelming: A third of the party is ready to tear down those too. And among black Americans specifically, there’s a near majority in favor of doing so. YouGov finds them split 48/22.

They are, however, the only demographic polled that supports the idea. Even famously liberal young adults in the 18-29 group split 25/41. If the wokest among us aren’t sold yet on trashing the Founders, their removal from the public square isn’t imminent.

Check back in 10 years, though, when an even woker young contingent takes their place.

William Saletan of Slate looked more closely at the polling lately on tearing down monuments. Various surveys show that Americans oppose the idea of removing Confederate memorials, although not overwhelmingly. But there’s a wrinkle:

A plurality of voters, 46 percent to 38 percent, said statues of “Confederate military leaders and political figures” should be left alone. But as the poll proceeded to other honorees, the balance of opinion turned against Trump. On figures who “owned slaves,” voters were evenly split at 40 percent. On figures who “made racist comments,” a plurality, 45 percent to 34 percent, favored removal. On figures who “supported racist policies,” the plurality for removal was 50 percent to 33 percent.

At first glance, these numbers are baffling. How can Confederate leaders score better than leaders who “supported racist policies”? The answer seems to be that most whites, along with pluralities of independents and moderates, see Confederate statues as symbols of “Southern pride,” not racism. To persuade them that statues must come down or that bases must be renamed, you have to focus not on the Confederacy but on specific racist deeds and statements by the figures those statues or bases honor.

I don’t even know if it’s a “southern pride” thing. My guess is that a huge chunk of the population believes erroneously that most Confederate memorials went up in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, erected by loved ones to honor fallen soldiers by honoring their commanders. Viewed that way, tearing down statues feels a bit like grave desecration. But it’s not true. The chart here shows that the vast bulk of monuments to the Confederacy went up in the early and mid-20th century (and not always in former Confederate states), periods when Jim Crow was especially brutal. They’re not really earnest commemorations of the Confederate war effort or its leaders; they’re messages to African-Americans of the day that modern whites still strive towards the Confederacy’s goal of keeping them subjugated. They’re the equivalent of shouting “Sieg heil” at someone who’s Jewish. The point in doing that isn’t to “honor Hitler,” it’s to demean and intimidate the target. Publicize the cultural context in which the CSA memorials were erected and opinion will begin to shift.

By the way, Pelosi was also asked today about mobs tearing down the statue of Junipero Serra in her district. He’s a Catholic saint who founded missions in California; you’d think she would have some qualms about it. “Given that today is the Feast Day of Saint Junipero Serra, her condemnation of mob violence would be especially timely,” said Kevin McCarthy, calling her out. “Today should be a day for celebration. Instead, we’ve recently seen a violent leftwing mob tear down the statue of St. Serra in Speaker Pelosi’s district in San Francisco, California.” Her response, per the Examiner: “I’m trying to save the world from coronavirus. I have no interest in about McCarthy, who hasn’t had the faintest idea of our dynamic in our district.” So, no comment essentially. You’re left to wonder if her “Confederate traitors are different” reasoning isn’t, perhaps, entirely sincere.

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