On Wednesday, the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) released a powerful new ad warning about vandals and rioters destroying a key monument in American culture — the presidents on Mount Rushmore. While the vandals are not likely to actually deface Mount Rushmore anytime soon, their iconoclastic movement has already targeted each of the four presidents on the monument — George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt.
The ad, “Erasing History,” shows the presidents on Mount Rushmore disappearing, one by one, as vandals tarnish monuments to each of those presidents, and as “America the Beautiful” plays somberly in the background. The ad appears to be a tribute to an America not just under siege but actively being dismantled by roving bands of rioters set on damning the entire American project as an exercise in oppression.
“‘Erasing History’ is a poignant reminder about the dangers of the current ‘cancel culture,’ the threat to our nation and the rule of law posed by anarchists and lawless liberals,” RAGA Executive Director Adam Piper said in a statement. “The 2020 election will be a referendum on law and order – and the choice is clear.”
“Americans who want to protect their freedom, history, and the rule of law will vote for Republican AGs,” Piper argued, claiming that Republican attorneys general stand in “stark contrast to Democrats, complicit with today’s cancel culture and various attempts to erase Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln from our history books.”
“It’s absurd to think Democrats could be offended by Mount Rushmore or the Fourth of July. However, today’s cancel culture has absolutely nothing to do with promoting equality or ensuring domestic tranquility and everything to do with creating division and destroying anything and everything lawless liberals think they might hate,” Piper added. “Today, their targets are our founding fathers, our flag, and public safety. As a parent, one must ask, what will they target tomorrow?”
Indeed, inconceivable as it may seem, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) actually condemned a Fourth of July celebration at Mount Rushmore as an event “glorifying white supremacy.” While the DNC deleted the tweet, the damage had already been done.
“Trump has disrespected Native communities time and again. He’s attempted to limit their voting rights and blocked critical pandemic relief. Now he’s holding a rally glorifying white supremacy at Mount Rushmore — a region once sacred to tribal communities,” the DNC tweeted.
Matt Wolking, deputy director of communications for the Trump campaign, marked the occasion as “The moment the Democrat Party attacked Mount Rushmore, which features George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, as a symbol of white supremacy.” The tweet also attacked an early celebration of the Fourth of July in the same vein.
Gov. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) powerfully shot down any idea of removing Mount Rushmore last week, but the cancel culture iconoclasts have come for each of the presidents on Mount Rushmore. Vandals scrawled, “Y’all not tired yet” on the plinth at the Lincoln Memorial. Vandals attacked a Theodore Roosevelt statue in front of a New York City museum in 2017, and city officials removed the statue last month. Vandals also toppled statues of Washington and Jefferson in Portland, Oregon. On Monday, vandals splashed red paint over two statues of George Washington in Manhattan.
When the rioters toppled the Washington statue in Portland, they spray-painted “1619” on it, echoing The New York Times‘s “1619 Project,” which aims to redefine American history by making the arrival of the first slaves in 1619 the focal point, rather than the Declaration of Independence in 1776. The 1619 Project justifies scrapping the entire American project — which has bolstered freedom and prosperity across the globe — in the name of racial justice.
Rioters seem to have taken advantage of the nationwide anger over the horrific police killing of George Floyd. In the name of defending black lives, they have engaged in looting, vandalism, and arson across America that destroyed black lives, black livelihoods, and even black monuments.
Eric Kaufmann, professor of politics at Birkbeck College at the University of London, surveyed self-described liberals on a broad range of culture questions, including the removal of the presidents on Mount Rushmore. He found that 44 percent of self-described liberals and 58 percent of those who described themselves as “very liberal” agreed that the United States should “Respectfully remove the monument to four white male presidents at Mount Rushmore, as they presided over the conquest of Native people and repression of women and minorities.”
In this context, the RAGA ad seems timely and important. Not only did the DNC condemn Mount Rushmore for “white supremacy” but a large proportion of self-described liberals would seriously consider removing it.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.