As I’ve written on Townhall before, our national monuments are important to me on a very personal level. On Monday, President Trump is expected to announce that he is – via Executive Order – dramatically reducing the size of the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. There will be plenty in conservative circles who will praise the move. Indeed there will be many who will urge the President to go even further in reducing national monuments and federal park holdings. We should be very careful what we wish for because the left is itching for a new front in their war on monuments they have decided are no longer worthy of historical recognition.
There are dozens and dozens of national monuments that could quickly become targets if the door is opened by President Trump’s Executive Order. These would include – the Arlington House (the Robert E. Lee Memorial) in Arlington, Virginia; Fort Sumter National Monument in South Carolina; the Manassas National Battlefield Park in Manassas, Virginia; the Shiloh National Military Park in Tennessee; the Tupelo National Battlefield in Mississippi; and the Richmond National Battlefield Park in Richmond, Virginia; among others.
It is an open question whether President Trump can legally reduce Bears Ears National Monument by Executive Order. The monument was established via the 1906 Antiquities Act, which already provides a remedy for reducing or removing a national monument designation – action by Congress.
This move not only encourages the left to open a federal front in their war on monuments (one that has been largely fought on the local and state level so far), it chums the water for the use of Constitutionally suspect “novel” uses of federal power to do by fiat what they cannot do through Congressional action.
If you doubt this approach, you need look no further than the efforts to change the name of the NFL’s Washington Redskins. Opinion poll after opinion poll shows that the vast majority of Americans – and the overwhelming majority of Native Americans – do not want the name changed. Unable to win the public relations battle, activists instead convinced the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USTPO) to cancel the six trademarks held by the team.
The Supreme Court eventually ruled – in a separate case – that the “disparagement clause” USTPO had relied on in cancelling the Redskins trademarks violated the First Amendment and that trademarks were private not government speech – but not before the Redskins were forced to spend years and untold amounts of money in legal fees to defend against this attack. It’s unlikely that small towns with monuments or lands will have the same financial resources if they are challenged.
The social justice warrior left has made it abundantly clear that they will take every opportunity to expand their war on American history. We shouldn’t make this easier for them.
President Trump should resist calls to use Constitutionally questionable executive authority to reduce or eliminate any national monument. If there is a clear and compelling reason to reduce or eliminate a national monument, then we should insist that Congress act – pursuant to the statute.
The left’s war on monuments and American history has been a monumental distraction at the state and local level, one that we simply do not need on the federal level.
President Trump is facing enough challenges from a media determined to undermine him at every turn, to a Democratic Party that has gone “all in” on the #resistance, to NeverTrump Republicans still hell-bent on proving they were right, to establishment Republicans who think they can mold Trump into something he isn’t.
The last thing President Trump needs right now is a federal battle over monuments.