For more than 200 years, the United States Capitol has stood as the physical embodiment of American democracy at work. But just as times change, so too do symbols. And even before the violent insurrection that took place at the Capitol on January 6th changed the way we look at the structure and what it stands for, issues were raised about some of the monuments inside of it. Specifically, the dozen-plus tributes to historical figures whose legacies have come under closer scrutiny due to their racist beliefs and actions. While white supremacy would seem to rank up there right alongside violent homicidal tendencies as beliefs we could all agree are bad, a number of Republicans proved otherwise.
On Tuesday, according to The New York Times:
The chamber voted 285 to 120 to approve the legislation, which aims to banish the likenesses of Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, Jefferson Davis, and roughly a dozen other figures associated with the Confederacy or white supremacist causes. Sixty-seven Republicans, including the party’s top leader, joined with every Democrat who voted to support the changes, but a majority of the party stood against it.
“We can’t change history, but we can certainly make it clear that which we honor and that which we do not honor,” said Representative Steny H. Hoyer, Democrat of Maryland and the majority leader, who helped write the bill. “Symbols of hate and division have no place in the halls of Congress.”
Tell that to the 120 Republicans who voted against the removal of the Capitol Building’s confederate statues and apparently no problem with symbols of intolerance watching over the very building in which American democracy is meted out. Two of the most contentious pieces are life-sized statues of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America (seen above), and former vice president and slavery advocate John C. Calhoun of South Carolina.
“His contribution to the national discourse was in defense of slavery — that’s why he’s here,” number three-ranking Democrat Rep. James E. Clyburn, who hails from South Carolina, said of the Calhoun statue. “Why should we be celebrating a defense of slavery? My message to South Carolina: Come get that statue and put it where it ought to be. If you want it here in this Capitol, we’re going to put it in the basement, in a closet somewhere.”
Speaking of racists: This isn’t the bill’s first go-around. Last summer, it also passed the House, but then-Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and a cadre of GOPers blocked it from moving forward. The bill’s next stop will again be in the Senate.
(Via The New York Times)