From using a pile of papers to signify the regulatory overreach of the swamp to hugging a flag to show his unconditional love for his country, the president has long been a prop guy. According to a new report, Trump may be introducing a new set of objects — statues of Americans whose legacies are now in question — to help fellow visual learners at his campaign rallies.
The ABC News report did not detail if the statues would be of the Confederate leaders Trump has been defending in recent weeks, as the country grapples, once again, with its racist past. Sources, however, did say that one potential theme could be “America’s founding fathers,” one of whom Trump safeguarded vigorously last month:
With his polling numbers tanking, the economic recovery stalled, the pandemic spiking, and protests over police brutality enduring well into the summer, Trump has centered his campaign on the defense of America’s past, as New York’s Eric Levitz notes:
For the president’s base, the defacement of a single George Washington statue might seem like a matter of urgent national concern. After all, for many cultural conservatives, such vandalism is a stand-in for a broader transformation of American civic identity that their movement exists to beat back. But it is hard to fathom how a relentlessly statue-themed campaign message is supposed to appeal to the median American. How many single-issue “anti-statuary vandalism” voters could there possibly be? Who, precisely, is thinking to themselves, I have deep concerns about the way Donald Trump has handed this pandemic (which has made my life worse in almost every respect), but now that I’ve learned that leftist activists sprayed paint on a monument to George Washington, I can’t in good conscience vote for Joe Biden (who has himself called for the “protection” of monuments to our founders)?
If Trump decides not to bring his marble — or more likely, painted clay — predecessors on the road with him, he has other ways of honoring “the greatest Americans to ever live.” Over the Fourth of July weekend, Trump announced an executive order establishing the “National Garden of American Heroes,” with potential entries like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Antonin Scalia. It’s unclear if Christ the Redeemer — the massive statue of Jesus in Rio de Janeiro that a Trump ad recently promised to “protect” — will make the cut for this preservation effort.