President Trump has made his own contribution to the spirit of the mob that permeates the left and its media allies on cable news. Instead of planting a flag around which all people of good will can rally in the face of the mob, Trump delights in goading. He has a gift for inflaming a difficult situation. If the media are consuming themselves in a frenzy of hate, the president is happy to engage them at their level.
President Trump has prided himself on keeping the campaign promises that have been within his power to keep. This one, however, remains buried on the campaign trail: “I will be so presidential, you will be so bored. You’ll say, ‘Can’t he have a little more energy?'”
Not yet. Not close. Barely trying.
President Trump’s testimony yesterday to the beauty of Confederate statues is a case in point (noted by Paul here). Only a day or two earlier he had declared the statues a local issue. “I would say that’s up to a local town, community, or the federal government, depending on where it is located,” he said. That is, he had declared it a matter to be determined by the people acting lawfully through the authorities. Yet President Trump’s zest for combat draws him toward a defense of the statues in principle.
The issue is difficult. The Confederate cause was not only lost, it was inglorious. It belied the principles of the American founding. Statues honoring the heroes of the Confederacy should provoke ambivalence at best.
Trump proclaims himself a member of the party of Lincoln. The party platform of 1856 addressed the ground on which to stand in the then impending crisis. It resolved “[t]hat the maintenance of the principles promulgated in the Declaration of Independence, and embodied in the Federal Constitution are essential to the preservation of our Republican institutions, and that the Federal Constitution, the rights of the States, and the union of the States, must and shall be preserved.”
It also resolved “[t]hat, with our Republican fathers, we hold it to be a self-evident truth, that all men are endowed with the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and that the primary object and ulterior design of our Federal Government were to secure these rights to all persons under its exclusive jurisdiction[.]”
Trump could harness his zest for combat to the restatement of the principles. Stick the Democrats with the Confederacy. Stick the Democrats with Jim Crow. Stick their liberal heroes with tolerating Jim Crow in the name of politics and power. They have yet seriously to discover the cause of equal treatment. They still stand for discrimination on the basis of race. Stick them with it.
It remains uniquely to the president to call us to stand on the higher ground on which all people of good will can stand. Stand for the principles of the Declaration. Stand for the principles of the Declaration as embodied in the Constitution. Stand for adherence to them and to the law.
With Lincoln, call on us to “stick to them.” Call on us to “stand firmly by them.”
When it comes to the president being “so presidential,” we are waiting.