Franke: ‘McKinley Must Go’
by Mark Franke
Just when it appears that the political correctness brigade has exhausted itself tilting at ideological windmills, another incredulous story hits the internet news feeds. The city of Arcata, California, has determined that a statue of President William McKinley is an affront to our society’s moral purity and must be pulled down.
What political sin did McKinley commit that warrants his banishment from our visual historical record? It apparently has to do with “settler colonialism,” whatever that means.
McKinley has a well-deserved reputation among historians for being the first president of what is called the American Century. The historian Robert W. Merry’s recent biography (President McKinley: Architect of the American Century, Simon & Schuster, 2017) credits McKinley for his leadership in pivoting the United States from an inward looking to an outward looking nation.
The ascendency of the United States in the hundred or so years after McKinley’s first election in 1897 can be attributed to several actions by his administration to assert American influence on world affairs.
A peace-lover by nature, McKinley reluctantly but then wholeheartedly took the United States into the Spanish-American War when Spain refused to ameliorate the conditions of its subjects in Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Philippines. Cuba achieved independence due to the help of American arms fighting on its behalf.
Hawaii became a U.S. territory by peaceful treaty during his administration and now is a full-fledged state in the union.
The economy was strengthened by his resolution of the gold versus free silver controversy, bringing the nation safely out of the Panic of 1893 without resorting to the evils of high monetary inflation. While he ran on a strong platform of protective tariffs, he mitigated his stridency over time so as to avoid destroying America’s many comparative advantages in trade.
According to Merry, McKinley was known as a kind man who somehow always got his way through negotiation and soft speaking. It is telling that even his political opponents praised his character and intelligence, all the while wondering how he got them to agree to his side of an issue.
So I repeat. William McKinley?
Why was there a statue of President McKinley in Arcata in the first place, you may ask? The monument was originally located in San Francisco but was moved to Arcata after the 1906 earthquake and the nearby town of McKinleyville was named in his honor. We shudder at these profound errors of judgment during that unenlightened time.
And the cost of this essential action to make Arcata safe for its sensitive progressives? $60,000, just chump change to the Arcata City Council. The lone dissenting vote on the council wanted to put the issue in front of the tax payers before spending their money. Ideological purification certainly can’t be left to the hoi polloi, who probably would be crass and vote their pocketbooks.
The irony of all this is that McKinley is credited with ushering in the so-called Progressive Era while it is our modern-day progressives who demand his memory be erased from the public consciousness.
Just another day in the land of the formerly free and no longer brave.
Mark Franke, an adjunct scholar of the foundation, is formerly an associate vice chancellor at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.