Jun 11, 2020 - Politics & Policy

The spark Trump lit at Lafayette Square

Trump walking past police
Trump walks past police in Lafayette Park after visiting outside St. John's Church. Photo: Patrick Semansky, File/AP

In a flash, the culture wars seem to be leaving President Trump behind — and his photo op last week seems to have accelerated the process.

Why it matters: Lafayette Square, which sits just across Pennsylvania Ave. from the White House, became a focal point after police used tear gas and batons to clear protesters and journalists out of Trump's way.

  • “Gas us. Shoot us. Beat us. We’re still here,” said a sign hung on the tall black fence erected to wall off the park, the AP reports.
  • “I’m still going back to Lafayette Square because it is the epicenter of our democracy,” 28-year-old D.C. resident Lia Poteet — who was injured during the demonstration — told the AP.

The 10 days since Lafayette Square have not been kind to Trump:

  • The joint chiefs chair publicly apologized for his participation. "I should not have been there," said Gen. Mark Milley today.
  • His defense secretary Mark Esper publicly disagreed with him about invoking the Insurrection Act to use active duty military to police U.S. cities. So did his previous defense secretary, James Mattis.
  • His Senate allies broke with his Confederacy defenses: Only two, Sens. Josh Hawley and Tom Cotton, opposed an amendment to the annual defense funding bill that pushes to rename bases that honor Confederate generals. This was after Trump vowed no changes would be allowed.
  • His House allies aren't riding to his defense: Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said he isn't opposed to renaming the bases, and House Democrats are working on a bill to remove Confederate statues from the U.S. Capitol.
  • Across the South, statues honoring Confederate generals are coming down in states ranging from Virginia to Alabama and Kentucky to Florida.
  • And NASCAR has publicly banned the display of the flag at its events, a suggestion that would have been inconceivable not so long ago.
  • The kicker: A majority of Americans support NFL players kneeling, Axios' Jeff Tracy reports, citing a Yahoo News/YouGov poll.

The bottom line: Trump staked out his side of the culture wars a long time ago, but that side seems to be shrinking fast.

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