Mary C. Curtis

It would have been so easy, a way for the Trump administration to honor an American icon and reach out to some of those Americans who believe the Republican Party has no use for them. But did anyone honestly think any member of the team leading the country under the direction of Donald J. Trump was going to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill?

Instead Trump and company’s song-and-dance about why a plan put in place before they moved into the White House would be delayed until well after they leave just confirms that they care little for the wishes of Americans who probably did not vote for them, but who are Americans nonetheless, and that they have no knowledge of or interest in the history that has shaped this country.

The move to again force Tubman to the back was a clarion call to Trump’s base, a signal of who is important and who is not.

That the woman tossed aside as the embodiment of “pure political correctness,” as the move was described by the president, deserving of, in his view, maybe a place on the $2 bill, was a Civil War spy, scout and nurse, an abolitionist, a suffragist and a hero called “Moses” for her strength and her grit, is just more proof of how far the Republican Party’s relationship with people of color and women has fallen.

According to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the move on the “Tubman” would be postponed until at least 2026, with the bill not likely to be in circulation until 2028 (and it has been reported that the tactic was to head off Trump canceling the Obama administration action altogether). So much for the plan to unveil the redesigned bill in 2020 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote.

Besides the president’s obvious displeasure with the choice of Tubman, there is his professed admiration of the man she would replace, the seventh U.S. president, Andrew Jackson. Trump has seen Jackson as a kindred spirit, as someone who has defied the “arrogant elite,” and has laid a wreath at Jackson’s tomb at the Hermitage, his plantation in Nashville.

Trump always glides past the unsavory portions of Jackson’s character, including his status and wealth built on the buying and selling of men, women and children and their labor, and his signing of the Indian Removal Act, which resulted in the deaths and forced relocation of tens of thousands of Native Americans.

Mnuchin’s misdirection did not hide a thing.

In reality, Trump should admire Tubman. She was a perfect example of a strong leader, a quality he admires, at least in dictators. After escaping her own brutal enslavement, she returned time and again, as conductor and driver of the Underground Railroad, to free others, despite the dangers, and with the law, shamefully on the side of the morally lawless, against her.

Trump professes to love the military. Tubman, Civil War hero, was buried with military honors in 1913. And as supporters of the Second Amendment, Trump and Republicans should recognize Tubman, who carried a gun on her missions, as one of their own.

This latest action is, with a few exceptions, the culmination of the Republican Party’s decades-long mere lip service to inclusiveness, since its Southern strategy of appealing to whites after civil rights laws were passed and its voter suppression tactics that have sought to nullify those gains ever since.

Increasingly, it is the party of Lincoln in name only.

Subscribe to Breaking News

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Mary C. Curtis is a columnist for CQ-Roll Call.


Load comments