The Civil War ended in 1865. From the end of Reconstruction in 1877 until around 1960, there was an unofficial truce between the North and South. Each side saluted the other’s courage. Americans agreed that the North had fought to preserve the Union and because Old Glory had been fired upon, and the South had fought for independence and liberty. Even prominent Northern professor Dr. James McPherson of Princeton University—no great friend of the South—agreed on the latter point. For eighty decades the two great heroes of the war were Abraham Lincoln and Robert E. Lee. And though they may not have been willing to admit the full extent of its cruelty, Southerners did concede that slavery was wrong.
All of this changed with the rise of a brilliant politician named Lyndon B. Johnson. He was not a good man, but he was a brilliant politician: in 1960, when he was running simultaneously for Vice President of the United States and for Senator from Texas, he advocated for integration in the national race, but segregation when he campaigned in Texas. Johnson was responsible for the invention of identity politics. He believed that he could appeal to African American voters and attract them into the Democratic Party en masse by advocating for rights. He was right. In 1956, 75 percent of African Americans voted for Eisenhower, the Republican candidate for President. But in 1964 more than 90 percent of black Americans voted Democrat—even as Johnson was still referring to them by the N-word when the cameras were not rolling.
And so things continued until Donald Trump pointed out that the Democrats’ policies had failed African Americans and asked them, “What have you got to lose?” Many black people answered: “Not much.”
It appears that President Trump’s strategy is working. Recent polls show black support for Trump at 36, 38, and 40 percent. If these numbers hold up in the election in November, it will fundamentally change American politics. No wonder there is panic among certain leftist groups. Could this be the real cause behind the riots?
George Floyd’s horrific death was wrong, but it is the pretext for, rather than the cause of, the current mob violence.
The leftists are attempting to apply the policy of divide and conquer. They are acting out of desperation. They realize that they are finished if they lose the African American vote, and they are smart enough to know that their grip on that vote is weakening. Their attack on Confederate monuments and Southern heritage is a last-ditch effort to hold on to the votes of blacks by stoking entirely understandable fears and resentments arising from the historical injustices of slavery and Jim Crow. But it is not just about Confederate monuments. Leftist thugs and their myrmidons have destroyed an impressive number of historical monuments that have nothing to do with the Confederacy: statues of Columbus across the country have been vandalized and defaced; a monument commemorating World War II in Albany, Georgia; the Los Angeles Vietnam War memorial; a Michigan monument to Troy Nealey, a lance corporal killed in the Iraq War; a World War I memorial in Adams County, Massachusetts; across the country, statues of Columbus have been vandalized and defaced; someone painted “Tear It Down” on a St. Joan of Arc statue in New Orleans.
The simple true is that the Left wants no heroes except its own. So they have converted Robert E. Lee, who opposed both slavery and secession, into the symbol for both. Franklin D. Roosevelt called Lee the most Christ-like American who ever lived. Winston Churchill said he was the most noble man to ever speak the English language. Yet suddenly he is evil incarnate.
Some people aver that you cannot change history. I suppose that depends on how you define history. When I was a freshman in college (back when Moses was a sophomore) one of my professors defined history as “the study of the past with interpretation.” By that definition, if you change the interpretation you change the history—not the actual past, but the history. And that is exactly what is going on today.
Churchill is credited with saying that a lie can go halfway around the world before the truth gets its trousers on in the morning. When the truth about the moment that we are living through finally comes out, I predict that it will be vastly different than the current leftist media narrative. I just hope that when it does, we still have something of our American heritage—and some of our cities—left.
Dr. Samuel W. Mitcham, Jr. is a retired professor and the author of forty books, including It Wasn’t About Slavery: Exposing the Great Lie of the Civil War and Bust Hell Wide Open: The Life of Nathan Bedford Forrest. A former army helicopter pilot and company commander, he lives in Louisiana.