After years of squabbling over its design, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial opened last Thursday in Washington D.C.
Perhaps the delay will come to be seen as a blessing. Coming at one of the nation’s low points, it could serve as a reminder that presidents can act with honor and that the two major political parties once did find common ground on numerous fronts.
Or perhaps the appearance of the monument now will be a depressing reminder of how badly we’ve messed things up, of how Ike would not recognize what his Republican Party has become.
Eisenhower was the kind of public-spirited, selfless, consensus-building pragmatist that is rare in both parties today and is most certainly not found in the current president.
Ike was an architect of the era of peace and prosperity that flourished in the years following World War II, a time when the United States was the unquestioned leader of the free world and was at the center of a network of alliances that promoted democracy, self-rule, free enterprise and fair trade. President Donald Trump is intent on picking stupid fights with close allies, cozying up to dictators and imposing tariffs with little rhyme or reason.
Eisenhower sent troops to Little Rock, Ark., to protect innocent school kids when violence greeted school integration. Trump had federal agents use chemical irritants against peaceful racial-justice protesters.
Eisenhower worked across party lines and enjoyed approval ratings north of 70%. Trump feeds red meat to his most devoted supporters.
Eisenhower, commanding general of the victorious allied forces in Europe during World War II, had deep and abiding love for those who wore our nation’s uniform. Trump publicly belittled John McCain for being captured during the Vietnam War and, according to sources quoted in The Atlantic, denigrated fallen American soldiers while in France when he canceled a visit to a cemetery near Paris.
The Eisenhower administration built the interstate highway system. The Trump administration's infrastructure efforts have become a running joke.
Eisenhower was the last Republican president to get a large share of the African-American vote. This was not surprising, as the Democratic Party still had a large segregationist wing at the time and Eisenhower’s Supreme Court pick, Earl Warren, authored the landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling to outlaw segregated schools.
In 1964, however, Republicans nominated Barry Goldwater, one of just six GOP senators who voted against the Civil Rights Act. Ever since, the party has been has become increasingly willing to vent its frustration against America’s changing demographics.
In Trump, white grievance has gone mainstream within the GOP. Which makes the opening of the Eisenhower Memorial somewhat awkward. The idea is to honor a great president. But his party, it would seem, wants to forget what he stood for.