Ben Domenech, publisher of the right-wing outlet The Federalist, called on Republican Party leaders to “physically take part” in defending the nation’s statues honoring Confederate leaders, slave-holding men, and brutal colonizers from protesters who are calling for the statues’ removal.
In a June 23 article titled “Where Are Conservative Leaders In This Moment?,” Domenech laments that Republican leadership has seemingly done little to defend the monuments from protesters across the nation, despite running campaigns with messages doused in American nostalgia. Domenech writes:
Wrapping themselves in the language of the Founding Fathers, filling their buildings with quotes, books, busts, statues, and artist’s renderings, conservatives have thrived by making themselves the defenders of American history against a verbally iconoclastic left. But in practice, they spent more time advocating for lower taxes, feel-good donor interests, and pro-business regulatory reforms than the cultural defense they used to make the money roll in.
For Domenech, Republicans’ lip service is not enough. Instead, he wants to see GOP leaders take to the front lines of opposition:
Now that the left has become not just verbally iconoclastic, not just changing the names of streets or buildings but physically assaulting the past, why have conservatives gone quiet? Why are they standing back instead of standing up to defend our history? Why is it that a bunch of South Philly Italian bros have more gumption about a statue of Columbus than the people who have spent decades invoking Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and more to raise money for their causes and win elections?
The “South Philly Italian bros” that Domenech contrasts with Republicans leaders were a roving assemblage of vigilante white men in Philadelphia’s Fishtown neighborhood who threatened and intimidated Black Lives Matter protesters with bats and makeshift weapons early in June, all with the tacit approval of the local police officers. Members of the group ended up assaulting a local news producer who was documenting the group’s ground presence, leaving him bloodied. Billy Penn reports that the men were alerted by police officers that “looting” could happen in their area, which the men interpreted it as a call-to-arms.
Last week, a similar crowd of vigilante white men assembled in front of a statue of Christopher Columbus again in Philadelphia on June 14. They were reportedly greeted with handshakes by police officers, who later allowed the group to assault people protesting at the statue.
Domenech called on Republican leaders to stand arm-in-arm with police officers and to fight protesters trying to remove statues.
What I want to see right now more than anything is elected officials and community leaders who are willing and ready to link arms with these cops and physically take part in cleaning up this mess and defying the mob.