Schoeneman: In Charlottesville, the Tragic Impact of Political Theater

The weekend events in Charlottesville are on everyone’s minds:

The tragic events of the past weekend in Charlottesville, which left one young woman and two police officers dead, are the result of poorly thought-out and amateurishly staged political theater. While there is plenty of blame to go around, and the finger-pointing has only just begun, one thing is certain: All of this could have been averted by elected officials behaving responsibly.

The bloodshed in Charlottesville has illuminated the dark underbelly of white nationalism that has been festering across the country for years now. Yet what isn’t as obvious, at least so far, is the role that substituting political theater for policymaking and grandstanding for governing have played in this tragedy.

All of this began with a debate about the future of a Confederate monument in Charlottesville — a debate that was essentially over as soon as it began. After the horrendous church shooting in Charleston in 2015, nationwide arguments over Confederate symbology began, and those arguments continue to this day. Yet in Virginia, these discussions and debates could only remain rhetorical; Virginia law has, since at least 1950, protected the status of war memorials, including both Union and Confederate memorials. That law was clarified in 1998 by the General Assembly to make explicitly clear the status of those monuments under state law: They cannot be removed by the authorities of any locality.

Read the rest of Brian Schoeneman’s column at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.