When the Treasury announced that Alexander Hamilton might be removed from the $10 bill, it was a gut-punch to many traditional Republicans. Hamilton is the underrated star of the early Republic. The intellect behind George Washington, the first American economist, and the architect of both our constitutional government and our unique form of capitalism, one can make a solid case that Hamilton is the forgotten founder of the Republican Party.
This week Treasury announced a change in direction. The father of American capitalism and the GOP would retain his place on our currency. Instead of replacing Hamilton, Treasury would remove one of the founders of the Democratic Party from the twenty. Andrew Jackson, a slaveholder who dismantled Hamilton’s signature achievement, the central bank, would be replaced on the $20 bill by a gun-toting, freedom-fighting, Republican badass, Harriet Tubman.
Republicans everywhere…well, failed to rejoice.
A full anthology of Republican responses to this move would be too depressing to recount. And it would kill more brain cells than drinking six jugs of hand sanitizer. Here’s a brief, hopefully tolerable summary.
Naturally, Donald Trump who resembles Jackson in nearly every relevant way derided the move as ‘political correctness.’ Fox News called it ‘stupid’ and ‘divisive,’ because nothing is more stupid and divisive than treating black people with dignity. Ben Carson, the GOP’s designated black friend, suggested putting her on the $2 instead. I mean really, does a black woman deserve a whole $20?
Other idiots suggested creating a new bill for Tubman, perhaps a $25. At least they didn’t recommend putting her on a bill worth 3/5 of a $20. Or maybe a “separate, but equal” twenty-dollar bill which in reality could only purchase something worth 30 cents. Perhaps it could be used to pay the salaries of women?
If you think the topline reactions to the Tubman move are unsettling, heed this advice: Do not read the comments section of any article on the subject. Nothing down there will improve your day.
Heading this post is an illustration from a children’s book on Tubman. That image can be treated as a fairly definitive political Rorschach. Assessed at its most empirical, objective level, that is a picture of an armed Republican risking her life to help others obtain their liberty. Yet it seems that few Republicans share that mental response. Something else stirs in their minds when they see an indomitable, armed black woman breaking the law. Reactions by prominent Republicans to this honor bestowed on Tubman speak volumes about the transition the party has experienced.
Perhaps now we can stop pretending that the GOP is still the Party of Lincoln. A political party that derives nearly all of its support from the former slave states, where old tyme religion masks a drive to restore white supremacy, cannot credibly retain its claim to an abolitionist legacy. There is no universe in which The Party of Lincoln can simultaneously be the party of Cruz or Trump. After July, that break with Republican heritage may lead to a more formal, official break in the party’s brand.
Mother Moses just saved the father of the Republican Party. Can anyone lead the modern GOP out of this racist swamp?