In private, most of my left-leaning friends say that Washington should stay. They don’t play down the moral catastrophe of his slave ownership, but they weigh that, as Bell advised three years ago, “against his role as a heroic commander in chief, as an immensely popular political leader who resisted the temptation to become anything more than a republican chief executive, and who brought the country together around the new Constitution.” And they conclude that Washington deserves to stay in the canon of our country’s heroes — deeply flawed, as most heroes are, but still worthy of admiration for the good he did.
They’d just prefer not to have to say that out loud.
Trump is no great moral theorist, but he does have a certain cunning about human behavior, enough, possibly to foresee that the Great Statucide would proceed by what conservative writer Rod Dreher has dubbed “the Law of Merited Impossibility”: Conservatives warning about the dire consequences of some social change are dismissed as hysterical cranks — and then, when exactly what they predicted eventually comes to pass, denounced as bigots for opposing the new order. Implicit in Dreher’s law is an intermediate phase in which a large number of people sit uncomfortably silent as the radicals take the moderate majority’s well-intentioned efforts further than they ever dreamed.