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Don't Give In To Trump's Final Racist Stand

[ Posted Tuesday, November 24th, 2020 – 16:49 UTC ]

President Donald Trump is not going gentle into that good night. Far from it. But when I say that, I'm not talking about him tilting at the windmill of his election loss, but rather of what (hopefully) will be his final battle with Congress.

Congress is supposed to pass budgetary bills before the federal fiscal year starts in October. Being Congress, they are almost always late in performing this basic civic duty. This year is no different, so among all the other crises we face, we're actually now staring into the void of yet another government shutdown if some sort of "kick the can down the road" omnibus budget bill isn't passed in early December. But throughout most of these sadly-now-regular fights over the budget and shutdowns, Congress usually manages to at least pass the National Defense Authorization Act, which funds the Pentagon and our entire military.

It's a subject that is about as non-partisan as it gets, really. What legislator wants to be accused by a political challenger of "not supporting our men and women in uniform," after all? At times, the military budget is used as a vehicle for Congress to send strong signals to the White House, but this normally only happens when there's an active (and unpopular) war going on. If Congress disapproves of the war, they can use the Defense bill to register their displeasure in a number of creative ways.

But that's not what's going on now. The Defense bill under consideration has already passed both houses of Congress (in various forms) with veto-proof majorities. There still needs to be a final version that both houses can vote on to put on Trump's desk, but the one part of it that Trump is balking at already has very widespread and bipartisan support. The bills already passed (again, with veto-proof majorities) all include a provision which would force the Pentagon to rename the 10 remaining military bases which were named after Confederate military figures. And Trump's in a snit about it, and is threatening to veto the entire Pentagon's budget over this one issue.

One might think that this isn't that big a deal, since Joe Biden can just order the Pentagon to rename the bases on his first day in office. So one might think that it really doesn't matter what the Defense bill says about it now. But this would be wrong. An article today in the Washington Post explains why, better than I could manage:

We should pause to remind ourselves what a moral abomination it is that there remains any way at all that we as a nation continue to honor and exalt the Confederacy and the men who led it. It is not, as its defenders say, simply a matter of remembering "history." There's a reason you don't send your kids to Heinrich Himmler Elementary School and go hiking in Osama bin Laden National Park, as important figures in history as they were.

And though the process began years ago, Trump's presidency accelerated the broad realization of how repugnant it is that so many tributes to the Confederacy remain. Having a president whose own personal racism is so undisguised has made it harder to justify the statues and flags and military base names as merely a way of remembering the past.

. . .

But this is where Trump wants to make one last stand. Even though versions of the defense bill renaming the bases already passed both houses of Congress with veto-proof majorities, Republicans are now urging Democrats to agree to remove the provision so as not to make the petulant toddler in the White House too upset.

This is nothing short of moral cowardice in the face of unvarnished racism. Republicans were on board with finally removing an honor that never should have been bestowed in the first place -- these men were all traitors to their country, after all, who deserve no honor whatsoever -- but now the Republicans want to back down just to make Trump feel better? That's absolutely pathetic.

Once again, in case anyone missed it: they already have the votes to overturn Trump's veto. Which means that it does not matter whether Trump signs the bill or not. It will pass, no matter what Trump does. The bases will be renamed, whether it is in three years or just one (the timelines differ in the various bills). Joe Biden will be in charge of this effort soon enough, so it will likely happen on his timeline, no matter what the bill says. This means that the only reason Republicans are now trying to change the bill is that "Trump doesn't like it." Which is, once again, pathetic.

The Post article ends by explaining why Democrats should hold firm and refuse to assuage Trump's ego and racism on this matter:

This is all about symbolism, after all. So what better symbolism would there be than for the Republican Party to join with Democrats to override a Trump veto over this issue?

Republicans could show that they're ready to reject Trump's appeals to racism and stand with America against her enemies. They could, at long last, demonstrate just a tiny bit of courage and say no to their doomed leader as he spends his last days in office wallowing in self-pity and resentment. And they could justify it by saying they just wanted to pay the troops and buy all those shiny planes and tanks and guns.

Would that be so hard? For this party, it probably will be.

It was hard enough to get Congress to even address this issue in the first place. Politicians don't want to make tons of voters in the South angry, which is precisely why the base names have not changed before now. But finally -- finally! -- the eruption of anger from Black people over their treatment by America has overcome the reluctance in Congress to weigh in on the issue. We do not as a general rule honor men who fought wars against us and lost. There is no "Fort Hitler" or "Joint Base George III" for a very good reason, to put it another way. The fact that we have treated Confederates differently is a shameful legacy that needs overturning as soon as possible. It is about as moral an issue as can be imagined, really.

The Republican position on the issue is absolutely indefensible. They are the ones who wrote the bill with the three-year timeline in it after Democrats came up with a one-year timeline. Why? Why delay it at all? There is no earthly reason for doing so -- the military is quite capable of following orders, and if they are ordered to change the names within one year, they will do so, no matter what it takes.

But now Republicans are arguing that even a three-year timeline is just too much for poor little Donald Trump to cope with. But the moral issue is crystal-clear. Which is why Democrats should not back down a single inch on this subject. Either you stand for removing this shameful vestige of institutionalized racism, or you don't. There really is no middle ground at all. Trump's racism is all that stands in the way -- even though it really doesn't. Congress could pass this bill, Trump could follow through on his threat and veto it, and then Congress could overturn that veto forthwith.

The symbolism matters. Making Trump veto a bill for purely racist reasons would, in fact, be a wonderful way to usher him out the door. And any Republican who stands with him should be exposed for their own moral cowardice at the same time. So here's hoping that Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer stand firm on this one. Because they're on the right side of history, and there simply is no conceivable reason for them to back down.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


7 Comments on “Don't Give In To Trump's Final Racist Stand”

  1. [1] 
    SF Bear wrote:

    CW you forget Moscow Mitch, will he even allow the bill to move to a vote if Trump disapproves? Like the Stimulus Bill he will simply refuse to play unless Donald gives his blessing. Again, like the Stimulus Bill this will place tremendous pressure on Nancy to "compromise" for the good of the country. If she refuses to give something to Trump (an extended deadline or fewer bases or some "win" for Trump)she will be seen as the the one causing the shut down.

    Everyone seems to forget that Mitch is the supreme grand-master at the game and he plays four or five moves ahead of the Dems. I do not see how they can win this. If they refuse to play ball with Trump, Mitch will allow the country to shut down right before Christmas and Nancy and Co will be blamed for this. If they do cave in to Trump they will set a horrible precedent and on many levels. You know Trump will crow and brag all over the media claiming he won, he won.

    I am afraid the Repugs have boxed the Dems into a no win with this move. Someone needs to get Beth Harmon to help the the Dems, because they never seem to see these moves coming.

  2. [2] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    SF Bear -

    The bill's already made it through the Senate with the base-closure language in it, even though Trump didn't like it. The Pentagon's budget is a big deal, especially to Republicans. So I think there's a good chance it'll move even if Trump disapproves. I also kind of doubt he'd follow through and actually veto it, if he knew it would pass anyway. But that last one's just a guess.


  3. [3] 
    dsws wrote:

    but now the Republicans want to back down just to make Trump feel better?

    No. Trump is not the problem. The Republican base is the problem. Over 14M of them voted for him in the 2016 primaries. His fandom among The Base has only grown since then. Many congressional Republicans would probably love a chance to make Trump feel bad, if they could get away without angering The Base. Many of these are people for whom the Confederate flag is too subtle, so they carry literal swastikas.

    For merely-far-right Republicans who chafe under the yoke of the lunatic fringe and its Dear Leader, the proper thing to do would be to become "centrist" Democrats. But even if they can see that, and are willing to make the jump, now would be an inopportune time to do it. There's gerrymandering to be done. If they offend the legislators who get to define their districts, they'll be out of a job.

  4. [4] 
    dsws wrote:

    The bill's already made it through the Senate with the base-closure language in it

    In that case, the way to side-step Moscow Mitch is for the House to pass the Senate version verbatim. My guess is that Trump would veto, and the Senate would run out the clock on the override so that no Republican senators have to go on record against the Confederacy when The Base is watching.

  5. [5] 
    John M from Ct. wrote:

    Nice to read a "what will he do now?" article involving the military that isn't about its supposed support or opposition to his attempt at a coup d'etat.

    Although I can't speak to the possibilities of this or that move and counter-move in the Congress, I am surprised that you still, at this point, invoke idealism, honesty, and character in your call for Congressional Republicans to stand up to the president. As others have said, he may have lost, but Republican office-holders will still read a razor-thin election as forbidding a break with Trumpism.

  6. [6] 
    SF Bear wrote:

    DWS: Good ideas but running out the clock on the Defense Spending Bill right before Christmas. Do the Repugs really have the balls to do this. Think of all the military family's with no money for Santa. I think by passing the Senate version you put the Repugs between a rock and a hard place. Either piss off the confederates or starve the military. Wow I would hate to be in their position.

  7. [7] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    anyone for whom that is actually a question ought to be barred from congress by law.


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