Trump Will ‘Not Even Consider’ Changing Bases Named After Confederate Generals

(Photo by Logan Mock-Bunting/Getty Images)
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June 10, 2020 4:05 p.m.

Two days after the Army opened the door to potentially changing the names of installations named after Confederate generals, President Donald Trump slammed it shut — citing the “Great American Heritage” of the bases that honor the rebel cause.

The bases, he said on Twitter, were “Monumental and very Powerful” and contained a “history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom.”

The President was referring to the 10 Army bases that were named after Confederate generals in the early 20th century, beginning after America declared war on Germany and the military needed more capacity to train and house troops stateside.

An Army spokesperson told Politico Monday that Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy were “open to a bipartisan discussion on the topic” of renaming bases.

The police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and the subsequent nationwide protests against police brutality, appear to have influenced the announcement: Events of the past two weeks “made us start looking more at ourselves and the things that we do and how that is communicated to the force as well as the American public,” the spokesperson, Col. Sunset Belinsky, said in a statement.

The Army added that each of its installations was “named for a soldier who holds a significant place in our military history” and that “the historic names represent individuals, not causes or ideologies.”

The possibility of changing the bases named after Confederate generals is a reversal from just four months ago, when an Army spokesperson told Task & Purpose that there were “no plans to rename any street or installation, including those named for Confederate generals.”

Protests against racism and police brutality in the wake of Floyd’s death have shifted the debate around the symbolism of the Confederacy and the white supremacist ideas it represented: Nationwide, monuments to the rebel side have been toppled by protesters and removed by colleges and public officials. This week, the Navy followed the Marine Corps’ lead in announcing a ban on public displays of the Confederate flag.

Last week, Alabama’s attorney general sued the city of Birmingham for violating the 2017 “Alabama Monuments Preservation Act” — the second time in four years — after Mayor Randall Woodfin ordered the removal of a confederate statue from a park. Another lawsuit currently prevents Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) from removing a statue of Robert E. Lee on Richmond’s well-known “Monument Avenue.”

Trump is likely not alone in his defense of the Confederate-named Army installations, according to new polling from Politico and Morning Consult. Asked a related question — what should be done with statues of Confederate leaders — the survey showed that while opinions had shifted in recent years, a plurality of respondents still believed the statues should remain standing.

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