An amendment to rename U.S. military bases and assets named after Confederate leaders had enough Republican support to pass through the Senate Armed Services Committee last week, but that does not mean Senate Republicans at large aren't going to fight to undo it before it can become law.
Because "the United States should not be bestowing special honors on people who committed actual treason against it" is an objectively correct take for which there is no plausible counterargument, the arguments that will be made by the opposition will by necessity be both insincere and extremely stupid. Fortunately for Republicans, that is their bailiwick. Their oeuvre. Their plan A, plan B, and plan C for every situation. And that brings us to Republican Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana, because you just knew I was going there, didn't you.
Sen. Kennedy's objection to the amendment is simple. He believes renaming bases named after Confederate traitors is unfairly targeting the South, because that is the place most supportive of the practice. Why are you singling out our traitors, you bastards?
Says Kennedy: "I think history will show that in the 18th century, in the 19th century, and well into the 20th century, there were many non-Confederate generals, soldiers and others, in both the South and the North who practiced racial discrimination, anti-Semitism and misogyny. I don't think we ought to just pick on the South."
A good and noble point you have there, my young senator, but one three inches down and six feet away from the actual point being discussed at the moment. Traitors. We're talking about traitors. We're talking about non-Americans, men who rebelled against the United States, took up arms against it, led men into battle against it, killed Americans in unfathomable numbers because the cause of slavery—not of racial discrimination, but of chattel slavery, the owning of human beings—was so essential a cause as to require the dissolution of the country rather than face impediments to its continuation and growth.
Those are the people being honored, and in places very far away from the "South." And few to none of them are being honored for their sublime military leadership; the statues were erected, and the bases named, generations later in a deliberate Jim Crow-era push to glorify the "heritage" of continued violence and discrimination against Black Americans. The statues were not put in the public squares because suddenly it became urgent to honor largely forgotten top and mid-tier traitors who had disgracefully not gotten their due, but as public statements glorifying terrorism against Black Americans—lynchings, arsons, and other violence—by elevating, as heroes, those who made themselves infamous for pursuing the ultimate act of terrorism in service to institutional white supremacy.
There's not much subtlety to it, which is why dancing around it now requires Kennedy to grand jeté his way past the entire Civil War to suggest that the Confederate names are being singled out for their practices of "racial discrimination," rather than "widespread murder for the cause of owning people."
Kennedy's counterproposal will be, according to CNN, to "rename every military installation in the country," requiring them to be named after Medal of Honor awardees. This way we can brush aside any disputes over whether Confederate traitors were in fact genuinely bad people who did genuinely horrific things, disputes would very much hurt (white ignorant racist) Southern feelings, according to Kennedy, and by the way escalate the amendment into nationwide discussions over every last military base in the country making everybody equally sad, but none sadder than the others. Or something.
That would be fine too, if it were a proposal made in sincerity. It is not, so we needn't bother with it.
The Whole Problem Here, the whole of it, is that there remains a very sizable contingent of the country and it is not limited to the "South," as Kennedy supposes that has been raised to believe that both violence and treason are good, if in service to institutional racism, and that well while nobody wants to go back to owning people it sure would be lovely if decisions on withholding rights, on systemic oppression, and on state-sponsored violence aimed at non-white American citizens were again considered "rights" that white majorities could vote to perpetuate in their own states if they felt those measures were needed. The flags and statues were all inventions to signal a renewed vigor in the "lost cause" of white supremacy; the "heritage" being honored is the heritage of using whatever violence might be necessary to maintain white supremacy in each town, neighborhood, and block.
Whether the United States should honor traitors as heroes is not, at heart, a question that can tolerate much in the way of both sides debate. It has always required supreme obfuscation to make it sound even plausible, much less endorsable. And it is always the people who do that obfuscation that also pipe up, in the hours before or after, with unrelated suggestions that well maybe going back to the way things were done in the Jim Crow era, just a little, when it comes to ballot boxes or the laws we write, but that has nothing to do with this. This is just about heritage.