So this happened yesterday:
WATCH: President Trump says "Robert E. Lee was a great general" during Ohio rally, calling the Confederate leader "incredible." pic.twitter.com/HhsLI1Mk05
— NBC News (@NBCNews) October 13, 2018
In the course of a speech in Ohio, President Trump wandered into the Civil War and made some remarks about the two principal generals, Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee. Five minutes ago, culturally speaking, these would have been unexceptionable and unremarkable — hardly newsworthy. But in the new media-driven Narrative context, they suddenly became a stick with which to beat Trump and (oddly enough) the Republicans.
This is how the Narrative — thanks, Saul Alinsky! — works. First, personalize the target: the soldiers of the Confederacy and in particular Lee. Second, polarize any discussion of the war by dramatically simplifying its origins, causes, aims, and outcomes under the all-purpose rubric of “racism.” Finally, eliminate all references to the saddest chapter in American history by tearing down their statues and sending Lee and his army down the memory hole and into purdah, and tarring anyone who objects as a “racist.”
And then attack Trump — for by complimenting Lee as a “great general,” which he was, and “incredible” (an all-purpose Trumpism word), the media now equates Trump with racism. Never mind that the Republican, Grant, America’s greatest general, prosecuted the war ever more vigorously the harder the South fought and the more Grant was convinced of the evils of slavery. During his two-term presidency Grant did more for American blacks than any other president in history, including securing passage of the 15th amendment, and included both the abolitionist Frederick Douglass and the full-blooded Seneca Indian, Gen. Ely Parker, in his inner circle on crucial matters of racial and governmental policy.
Following Lincoln’s wishes, Grant was magnanimous in victory, and strove to re-integrate the secessionist states back into the Union as quickly as possible while protecting the civil rights of African Americans. Grant signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1875, and was president during the passage of the 15th Amendment, which completed the trio of Reconstruction Amendments following the war.
But nobody remembers any of that; in the Narrative, the Democrats — the party of slavery, segregation, secularism, and sedition — are always the good guys, even though they started the war, fought it fiercely, assassinated Lincoln and replaced him with a Democrat, invented the KKK to prevent blacks in the South from voting, and eventually wore the federal government down as they reinstituted the color line, revived the KKK (which Grant had effectively destroyed), and battled on for nearly a century.
In the course of tut-tutting about Trump’s remarks, Slate made this observation:
On Friday, Trump praised Lee moments after he had spoken positively about African American unemployment numbers and called on black voters to “honor us” by voting for Republicans in November. “Get away from the Democrats,” he said. “Think of it: We have the best numbers in history. … I think we’re going to get the African American vote, and it’s true.”
No wonder the Democrats hate Kanye West so much. But, given their history, is it any surprise?