As the Biden administration ‘speeds up’ efforts to replace Andrew Jackson with Harriet Tubman on the twenty-dollar bill, many conservatives are celebrating the swap. The founder of the Democrat Party replaced by a gun-toting Republican? The libs get owned again, these Republicans muse.
But if the Tubman twenty is such a win for conservatives, why does the Left seem uniformly to support it? ‘Historical ignorance,’ giggle the giddy conservatives. Fair enough. But then why do some conservatives, this author included, oppose it? Why did the Trump administration halt the switch, and why have the Obama and Biden administrations encouraged it? ‘Racism,’ reply the innovators on the Right and Left, at least implicitly and often explicitly. And therein lies the trap of the Tubman twenty-dollar bill.
The campaign to replace Jackson with Tubman has little to do with Tubman or Jackson and everything to do with leftist identity politics. If the campaign sought simply to honor an important abolitionist, the reformers might propose replacing Jackson with John Brown, the nation’s most ardent anti-slavery crusader whom Tubman eulogized as having “done more in dying than 100 men would in living.” But Brown, however revered, would not satisfy the demands of identity politics. If the campaign aimed specifically at recognizing Tubman, reformers might consider giving her some new coin or bill as reformers achieved for Susan B. Anthony in 1979 and Sacagawea in 2000. But a new Tubman denomination would not rid our money of the detested Andrew Jackson.
Harriet Tubman was a courageous and admirable American, as was Andrew Jackson, despite revisionists’ cries to the contrary. But the identity politics-driven demand to replace Jackson with Tubman deprives both of their humanity, reducing them to mere types — Harriet Tubman representing women and “people of color,” Andrew Jackson representing that dread figure: the dead, white man.
Cultural revolutionaries persuade naive conservatives to condemn Jackson by enumerating and often exaggerating his sins in the same way they have campaigned in recent years to tear down statues of Robert E. Lee. But Lee’s statue topplers did not stop with the Confederate general. Soon enough they began to vandalize monuments to Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Grant. Likewise, only the most naive conservative could believe that Jackson’s present-day foes will content themselves with having vanquished the hero of New Orleans. Soon they will demand we debate the propriety of honoring “white supremacists” such as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln on our currency. The cultural revolution will spare no forebear.
‘Who cares?’ ask some conservatives. The Left seems to care quite a lot, perhaps because leftists understand the importance of tradition and symbolism in a polity. While economics-obsessed right-wingers focus on “more important” matters such as tax cuts and occupational licensing reform, leftists focus on the subtler task of ‘reframing American history.’ What shall it profit a nation to boost GDP and lose its culture? For decades, conservatives have failed even to conserve the ladies’ room in no small part because they have shrugged their shoulders as cultural revolutionaries upended society.
Racism is an offense against human dignity, for which reason conservatives tend to reject it. But leftists do not care, and no amount of performative support for the Tubman Twenty will convince them otherwise. Harriet Tubman lived an impressive life, and we have rightly honored her with memorials in New York and Massachusetts, two national parks, and many other monuments. We may well consider putting Tubman on our money — but not at the cost of erasing and condemning the statesmen who built our country. By indulging such a cynical campaign, we dishonor both Jackson and Tubman but more so ourselves.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.