The irony of this segment is that she started out on the right foot. What do you think about statues, Dana Bash asks? I think Trump wants us talking about statues because he doesn’t want to talk about hundreds of thousands of Americans being sick with COVID-19 or about the White House not punishing Russia for putting bounties on American troops, says Duckworth. Which is the right answer politically. The president’s spent the past month trying to remake the campaign as a culture war proxy fight, with ruinous results in the polls and other metrics. It’s not that people disagree with him that statues of the Founding Fathers should be left alone. They don’t. It’s that his political priorities seem so far out of touch with Americans’ anxiety right now that many come away thinking he either doesn’t care about the pandemic or doesn’t know what to do about it. Duckworth’s honing in on that.
Right, fine, got it, says Bash. But what about those Washington statues?
Amazingly, Duckworth not only botches the response by saying she’s willing to entertain the idea of canceling the Founding Fathers, she goes on to hint that maybe it’s time to give Mt. Rushmore back to Native Americans. Bash didn’t even ask about that!
"His priorities are all wrong," Sen. Tammy Duckworth reacts to Pres. Trump's Mt. Rushmore speech where he defended Confederate monuments. "He should be talking about what we're going to do to overcome this pandemic… he spent all his time talking about dead traitors." #CNNSOTU pic.twitter.com/eWEq750ZPy
— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) July 5, 2020
Needless to say, most Americans won’t be “listening to the argument” for disappearing Washington and Jefferson in some Year Zero Jacobin purge. YouGov asked recently “Should statues of American presidents who were slaveholders, like Washington, Jefferson, and Jackson, be removed?” and got this response:
I can’t understand how she shifted in 30 seconds from “don’t take the bait on culture-war distractions” to “Mt. Rushmore was stolen from native peoples, you know.” Did she panic and think that the left would punish her if she whiffed on a second invitation from Bash to signal disapproval of America’s white, male, slaveholding Founders? She handed Trump a gift-wrapped reason to keep talking about this today and to stay on offense while doing so — which was exactly what her initial answer was designed to avoid.
It’s an especially weird move for someone who’s being chattered about lately as a potential Biden VP. Sleepy Joe does need a running mate who’s a bit more left-wing culturally than him, but one with the basic good sense not to flirt with ideas that are polling at 17/62. I’m looking forward to seeing how Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren handle this same issue. Where’s the sweet spot between “not woke enough for the left to grudgingly support putting you on the ticket” and “woke enough that you’re on the wrong side of an issue that’s -45 in net support”?
Tangentially, since it’s July 4th weekend and the two parties’ bases are clashing over national identity, I’ll leave you with this recent polling result that caught my eye. What explains the surprisingly sharp decline over the past two years among Republicans who say they’re “very patriotic”? Is it … the national humiliation we’re presently enduring on COVID-19?