If, as many Civil War scholars have suggested, the Confederate Lost Cause was born in the imagery of Lee’s manly and noble surrender to Ulysses Grant at Appomattox in April 1865, perhaps the Trump Lost Cause has been born in the indelible imagery of the rioters scaling and assaulting the U.S. Capitol in January 2021. Their story, however fraught with lies and misguided beliefs, has tremendous traction among a majority of sitting Republicans in Congress, in the constellation of right-wing media and now in their thousands of veterans of the march on the Capitol. They may soon need a new high priest with much better political talent; there is no lack of candidates awaiting their chance.
Mr. Trump lost, but he and his minions may yet find ways, if they keep their deep foothold in the Republican Party, to manufacture a dreamlike story of future victory for their unstable coalition of an unhindered ruling class, Christian nationalism and the aggrieved white working class. Whether Trumpism can ever attain the staying power of the Confederate Lost Cause is unclear. It may flame out in a few years like the bad TV show it has always been. But the shock of Trumpists’ inevitable attack on the American experiment on Wednesday, Jan. 6, hit like a thunderbolt. They will be back. It will surely take great political skill and moral imagination across American culture, from the Biden administration to every teacher in the land, to fight this new Lost Cause ideology. The country needs healing and unity, but it needs justice and better storytelling of its history more.
Read the entire piece here. In Fall 2021, Blight will deliver Messiah University’s annual American democracy lecture.