Donald Trump put Republicans in the awkward political territory while losing a major culture war as he sought to defend the glorification of the Confederacy.
In a new Washington Post analysis, Paul Waldman and Greg Sargent write that the "project to remove Confederate names is proceeding apace, and it’s not remotely controversial anymore. Trump lost this battle decisively — and no one noticed."
The two noted Congress is poised to spend $62 million removing Confederate names from places of honor in the U.S. military.
"We forget this now, but Trump tried to make this question into a major battle in the culture wars, an existential test of whether the nation would succumb to the dark forces of political correctness. Yet by doing that, Trump ended up pushing the country to take a firm stand — against his position," they wrote. "And no conservative could offer even a moderately persuasive argument for why U.S. soldiers should train and live at bases named for enemies of the United States who fought in support of one of the worst evils in human history."
The analysis noted Trump's infamous "very fine people" comments about both sides after "Unite the Right" militants descended on Charlottesville to defend a public statue honoring a Confederate general.
"Removing those names is a long overdue correction of an outright obscenity. But Trump seemed like the last Republican determined to keep the Confederate names on the bases," the two wrote. "One strange thing about this saga was how it combined Trump’s relentless race-baiting with his zeal for forcing the country into utterly needless social and political conflicts."
Even though over 360,000 American troops died fighting the issue, Trump apparently saw a political upside in defending the insurrectionists.
"It was in the aftermath of all this that Confederate statues became a weapon for Trump. He clearly believed a defense of the Confederacy could supercharge his base during his 2020 reelection campaign," Waldman and Bump wrote. "In short, Trump forced the entire political system into a culture war that even many in his party didn’t want. Some surely wanted to keep the race-baiting in dog whistle mode. Trump very much wanted it to be explicit."
Read the full analysis.