Republican Candidates Are Dodging The Issue On The Confederate Flag

With notable exceptions, most of the Republican candidates for President are refusing to take a stand on the propriety of South Carolina flying the Confederate Flag. That's called cowardice.

Confederate Flag South Carolina

On Saturday, Mitt Romney sent out a message on Twitter calling for the Confederate flag flying on the grounds of the South Carolina State Capitol to be removed, a message which President Obama himself endorsed later in the day, and in doing so Romney has put many of the Republicans running for President on the spot:

[Romney’s] comments Saturday came amid the struggle by several candidates to articulate whether or not the flag should remain in place — and whether the motives of the church shooter were racist.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is expected to launch a presidential campaign soon, said in a statement Saturday that the flag issue “is up to the people of South Carolina to decide, but if I were a citizen of South Carolina I’d be for taking it down.”

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush said in a statement that “My position on how to address the Confederate flag is clear. In Florida we acted, moving the flag from the state grounds to a museum where it belonged.”

In 2001, Bush ordered the removal of the Confederate flag from the Florida State Capitol, where it had flown since 1978.

But Bush’s statement didn’t explicitly call on South Carolina to do the same: “This is obviously a very sensitive time in South Carolina and our prayers are with the families, the AME church community and the entire state. Following a period of mourning there will rightly be a discussion among leaders in the state about how South Carolina should move forward, and I’m confident they will do the right thing.”

Late Friday, Bush told a Tampa Republican fundraiser that “It breaks my heart that somebody, a racist, would do the things he did” in Charleston.

In Miami, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said Saturday that it is up to the people of South Carolina, not “outsiders,” to decide whether to remove the Confederate flag.

“This is an issue that they should debate and work through and not have a bunch of outsiders going in and telling them what to do,” he told reporters.

In his most expansive remarks on the deadly mass shooting, Rubio said the white man charged with the killings “carried out an act motivated by racial hatred.”

“It’s an atrocity. It’s a horrifying instance,” he added.

Rubio said he now supports Bush’s decision to remove the Confederate flag from the Florida capitol and place it in a museum. But as a state legislator,Rubio co-sponsored a war monuments preservation bill that would have preserved the Confederate flag’s placement on Capitol grounds.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), in an interview with The Washington Post,said Saturday that decisions about the flag are for South Carolina to decide, but that he understands “both sides” of the debate.

“Both those who see a history of racial oppression and a history of slavery, which is the original sin of our nation, and we fought a bloody civil war to expunge that sin,” he said while campaigning in Iowa.

But, he added: “I also understand those who want to remember the sacrifices of their ancestors and the traditions of their states, not the racial oppression, but the historical traditions and I think often this issue is used as a wedge to try to divide people.”

In Philadelphia, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who is poised to launch a GOP presidential campaign, began a speech on Saturday by asking for a moment of silence in memory “of those nine lives” killed in Charleston. As he watched media coverage from South Carolina, he said he was struck by how many “family and friends were already talking about forgiveness.”

Later in a statement, Walker said that “The horrific crime committed on Wednesday in Charleston was done by a racist and evil man. I condemn both his acts and his beliefs.”

He added later that “The placement of a Confederate flag on the Capitol grounds is a state issue and I fully expect the leaders of South Carolina to debate this but the conversation should wait until after the families have had a chance to bury and mourn their loved ones.”

Other candidates have been similarly opaque in their response to questions about the Confederate flag. Carly Fiorina acknowledged that the flag is “offensive to many,” but said that its presence on the Capitol grounds in Columbia was an issue for the people of South Carolina. Rick Santorum similarly refused to weigh in on the issue, Mike Huckabee said that it is not an issue that someone running for President should be concerned about, and Rand Paul’s campaign simply said that the Senator had no comment. Finally, the one South Carolinian in the Presidential race, Senator Lindsey Graham, said on Friday that the flag was part of who South Carolinians are, and seemed to dismiss the idea that it should be removed from its present location in Columbia.

This isn’t the first time that issue of the Confederate flag has become an issue in Republican Presidential politics. In 2000, after other Southern states had removed Confederate symbols from state buildings and offices in response to public pressure, activists turned their attention to Columbia, where the Confederate Battle Flag still flew over the Capitol Building itself along with the American flag and the South Carolina state flag. As a compromise, the flag was removed from that location and moved to the memorial area where it flies now, but a law passed at the time provided that it could not be removed from there without approval of a super-majority of the state legislature. The flag at its new location became an issue during the 2008 Presidential campaign, and saw Romney first take the stand that the flag should be removed entirely, as did former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson, and faced push back from South Carolinians over his stance. In 2000, John McCain had supported removing the flag from the Capitol building and faced similar push back during the primary in 2008. To the extent to which the flag was an issue in 2012, the only candidate who seems to have spoken publicly about it was Newt Gingrich, who said that only the people of South Carolina should decide the issue. In this respect then, the response that we’re hearing from Republican candidates today is par for the course.

In the grand scheme of things, of course, the location of the Confederate Flag on the ground of the South Carolina State Capitol is not the most important issue on the planet, and it certainly isn’t the key to resolving America’s remaining racial issues. In this respect, then, the criticism that one blogger has raised that removing the symbol of the Confederate flag will not lead to a healing of racial wounds is correct, but it also completely misses the point.

Flags are symbols, and symbols are meant to send a message. In this case, the message that the Confederate Battle Flag sends seems to me to be very clear. To a significant extent, that flag only became a prominent symbol in the South after the Civil War when it was adopted by those resisting efforts to enforce the equal rights that African-Americans are entitled to and, later, as a response to the Civil Rights Movement and the efforts to end segregation. As part of what came to be called “Massive Resistance,” South Carolina and many other states of the former Confederacy put the flag in prominent public places, incorporated into the state flags, and otherwise adopted it as a banner. It was also a frequent sight at Ku Klux Klan rallies. This was, obviously, done to send a message, both to African-Americans and to the Federal Government that was seeking to protect their rights. It was a message of prejudice and intimidation that no sane, rational person living in the 21st Century should endorse. And yet most of the Republican field doesn’t seem to realize that.

Another argument often made about the flag is that it is part of the “heritage” of the South. David French makes the argument in a piece at National Review that was posted late last week, and that argument also misses the point. Heritage belongs in a museum not on public grounds and state flags. Moreover, the heritage argument ignores the actual history of that flag and how it ended up becoming such a prominent symbol on official buildings in the south. Ilya Somin addresses this “heritage” argument quite well at The Volokh Conspiracy:

One can try to defend the Confederates by invoking a kind of historical moral relativism: their support for slavery should be excused because it merely reflected the values of their time. But that actually lets them off the hook too easily. By 1861, many Americans – including some white southerners – recognized that slavery was wrong, and at odds with the Enlightenment ideals underlying the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. A few southern whites were active opponents of slavery. Many more at least recognized that it wasn’t worth fighting a war to defend.

(…)

ot all who wave the Confederate flag today do so because they approve of slavery and racism. Many, perhaps most, are simply trying to express regional pride, without carefully considering the flag’s history. Others have bought into the myth that Confederate secession had no real connection to slavery. But the flag’s historical association with slavery and racism cannot simply be ignored. Both during the Civil War era, and during other periods such as the Civil Rights Movement, its major function was as a symbol for political movements seeking to oppress blacks.

Taking down the Confederate flag and otherwise curbing official veneration of the Confederacy may not prevent racist violence of the kind we saw last week. Unlike participants in racist lynchings and mob violence a century ago, people like the perpetrator of the Charleston attack do not represent the mainstream values of their society. They are relatively marginal extremists who are unlikely to stop because most of society condemns them and their values. Nonetheless, ending state-sponsored honoring of Confederate leaders and symbols would be a valuable symbolic step.

To be completely blunt about it, if the heritage your are celebrating includes glorifying a failed, defeated nation that was established for the purpose of enforcing racial inequality and protecting slavery and spreading to other territories, something made clear in speeches by the Confederacy’s founders and the Secession Declarations of the individual states, then it isn’t much of a heritage at all.

One would think that candidates for office in the 21st Century would recognize this, but it’s unlikely that the Republicans prevaricating on this issue will suffer for it at the ballot box. Indeed, if past primaries are any indication it is the candidate who takes a stand against the flag that is more likely to suffer in a Republican Primary. At the same time, this is the kind of issue that gives one an indication of the moral fiber of a politician, and most of these candidates are coming up wanting. In that respect, it’s somewhat ironic that it’s Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush, who conservatives have often criticized for being without principles, who have actually displayed principle  on this issue. Perhaps the other candidates could learn something from them.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, Race and Politics, US Politics, , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Argon says:

    It’s fallout from their race-baiting ‘Southern Strategy’.

    Look, the Confederate flag was flown above statehouses largely in response to the 1960’s civil rights movement. It was never really about ‘heritage’ but a reactionary movement.




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  2. KM says:

    You can be proud of your heritage as a Southerner and not pledge allegiance to the Confederate flag. The South has contributed much to our collective culture other then this piece of cloth. There are plenty of other symbols you can choose to indicate your pride without taking up arms for one that has such a sordid history and terrible connotation for many.

    At this point, anyone who knowingly flies it does so simply as a “F- You!” to the world and it should be viewed as such. Not with respect for history but as the latest tantrum of attention-whores.




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  3. Bob @ Youngstown says:

    IMO Kasich has struck the right tone. It is entirely up to the citizens of SC, however ‘if I had a “vote”, I would take it down.
    Personally, I hold that it is the outward symbol of a (barely) underground culture of racial hatred. A symbol that belongs along side the Nazi flag.




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  4. stonetools says:

    At the same time, this is the kind of issue that gives one an indication of the moral fiber of a politician, and most of these candidates are coming up wanting. In that respect, it’s somewhat ironic that it’s Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush, who conservatives have often criticized for being without principles, who have actually displayed principle on this issue. Perhaps the other candidates could learn something from them

    To a certain extent, Bush and Romney can rely on big business support a bit more than the other Republican candidates, who have to pander more to the bigotry of the Republican base. Still, I will give them credit for standing against that bigotry.




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  5. gVOR08 says:

    Doug – thank you for recognizing that the ‘heritage” and “traditions” being celebrated are indeed

    glorifying a failed, defeated nation that was established for the purpose of enforcing racial inequality and protecting slavery and spreading to other territories

    But you say

    It (the flag) was a message of prejudice and intimidation that no sane, rational person living in the 21st Century should endorse. And yet most of the Republican field doesn’t seem to realize that.

    as though it was some sort of contradiction.




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  6. gVOR08 says:

    @Bob @ Youngstown: I take it that’s Youngstown OH. As a fellow Ohioan, who despises Kasich and all his works and ways, I agree. He hit the right note with ‘It’s up to SC to do the right thing, and we all know what the right thing is.’ Although a little more directness on the last part would have been good.




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  7. Modulo Myself says:

    It’s almost like these guys want to win the Republican primaries.




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  8. Tony W says:

    @gVOR08: Agreed, it’s time for a “Let me be clear” statement from a prominent republican.




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  9. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Why the hell is this even an issue? How the hell is this THE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVAR all of a sudden?

    Hey, I know how to kill this in its infancy. Let’s ask Hillary Clinton to address her own direct connection to Racist Confederacy Worship.




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  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    “This is an issue that they should debate and work through and not have a bunch of outsiders going in and telling them what to do,” he told reporters.

    Now where have I heard that before? Oh yeah…. This is the same weak a$$ excuse we have been hearing for over 150 years about the racist stuff that happens in this country. I wonder why they never apply that sentiment to gay marriage or abortion or religion or….

    Yeah Doug, you are right, gutless weasels the whole lot of them.




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  11. Hal_10000 says:

    McCain and Romney have both shown that you can condemn the flag without losing votes in the South. Georgia’s Republican governors removed the confederate flag from the state flag without any consequence. Refusing to oppose the flag is plain cowardice. How are these guys going to stand up to Iran if they can’t stand up to a diminishing segment of the electorate that’s going to vote for them anyway?

    I grew up in Georgia and believed the “tradition” argument for a long time. It was two libertarians who persuaded me otherwise. The first, oddly, was Neal Boortz, who is often crazy but made the point that in SC and Georgia, the flag had nothing to do with tradition and everything to do with defying Brown v. Board of Education. They weren’t on the flag until that decision was handed down and they were incorporated to show a racist resistance to integration. The second … and I can’t remember who made this argument, but it was at Reason.com … is that the flag is supposed to represent all the citizens of a state. And if some citizens find it offensive — whether that offense is reasonable or unreasonable (and I think it’s entirely reasonable in this case) — it should be changed.




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  12. Pete S says:

    @stonetools:

    To a certain extent, Bush and Romney can rely on big business support a bit more than the other Republican candidates, who have to pander more to the bigotry of the Republican base.

    No, they don’t. There is nothing to stop someone like, for example, Marco Rubio from saying “I don’t want the nomination if it means I have to suck up to a bunch of racist yahoos. Nobody can make South Carolina take the flag down, but they should take it down.” The race for the nomination is already overcrowded, so it might be an opportunity for a candidate to distinguish themselves a bit.

    I know, not everyone who likes the Confederate Battle flag is an overt racist. But the “heritage” represented by this flag was largely taking up arms in defense of slavery, then opposition to civil rights. This flag did not fly for most of the history of the South.




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  13. CSK says:

    I’ve mentioned this before, but outside the south, the Confederate battle flag is associated with the worst elements of society. If you see it on a pick-up truck in rural New Hampshire, beware of the driver. And it appears to be the favored fashion accessory of those who also love Nazi regalia.

    I’ve tangled with southerners about this. I ask them why the flag appeals to northern degenerates, and they get huffy and say they can’t be held responsible for those who co-opt this symbol of southern heritage.

    Which neatly evades the real issue: Why does this flag appeal to so many cruds?




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  14. Grewgills says:

    There are two non exclusive reasons some Southerners have embraced this particular symbol of 4 years of Southern history, one is racism and the other ignorance. Neither of those says much good about the people who choose to fly it.




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  15. Rafer Janders says:

    The Confederate flag is a symbol of treason against the United States of America. The men who fought under that flag made war on the United States Army and United States Navy. and conspired with America’s enemies to bring them into the war against her.

    It is an outrage, a despicable outrage, that the GOP candidates who claim to love America equivocate at all, at all, about denouncing a symbol of treason to their country. By doing so, they dishonor the sacred memory of the brave men of the US Army and Navy who fought and died to preserve this country against the Southern treason.




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  16. C. Clavin says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:
    It’s probably because the Confederate Flag is nothing but a symbol of white supremacy, a symbol the Republican Party has warmly embraced.
    Of course the only important Confederate Flag is the white one Robert E. Lee flew at Appomattox.




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  17. Ron Beasley says:

    The Republican candidates are terrified of the knuckle dragging, ignorant and bigoted Republican base. @Argon: Is right, it is all the result of the Southern Stratgy.




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  18. dmhlt says:

    Why would any state want to display the Confederate Battle Flag since it celebrates a Heritage of …

    Haters
    Traitors
    and
    Losers




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  19. James Pearce says:

    In Florida we acted, moving the flag from the state grounds to a museum where it belonged.

    “It belongs in a museum!”
    “So do you!”

    I think it’s high time the Confederate flag falls and a new flag, an untainted symbol of Southern Pride, can rise in its place.




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  20. JohnMcC says:

    @Rafer Janders: Did you know, my friend, that you just performed an ancient rite called “waving the bloody shirt”? Our fellow commenter here @aFloridian gave quite a moving and thoughtful explanation of the hold that we southerners have on our cultural heritage. I was once on a ‘board’ similar to this one (the old Atlantic Magazine site, I think) and ‘met’ a person who had very liberal views like mine but a peculiar slant on things. Turns out he’s a professional soldier in the Israeli Defense Force. And one thing he dealt with that I understood completely was dealing with the human dilemma as somehow stuck both in an evolving situation while being anchored in that stream by ancient identities.

    May I suggest, assuming your comment wasn’t some sort of Poe’s Law performance, that liberals like we have no trouble empathizing with black folks in Baltimore who behave towards the Law and law enforcement in ways that are probably completely adapted to the environment of being a young black man in Baltimore.

    But if the image of the minority is shifted to a gap-toothed, grits-loving, pick-up-driving white person (probably needing a shave), there is no mercy shown. That person should understand the importance of the so-called Confederate flag and realize the wisdom of taking it down forever.

    Again, assuming that I’m not weirdly over-reacting to what would really be a clever joke if you’ve pulled it on me, I believe that we agree – you and I – about issues of race and I’m not for an instant condoning anything that imagined redneck actually DOES. But he’s got rights and deserves the same effort-to-understand that represents the best part of liberalism, IMO.




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  21. Matt says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: So because someone made a button 23 years ago as support of Bill it’s clear and obvious that Hillary must answer for that?

    What?

    My god I feel old now.




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  22. aFloridian says:

    @JohnMcC:

    Thanks for the shout-out. I think that’s a pretty good point, which I had tried to allude to in that referenced post.




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  23. JohnMcC says:

    @aFloridian: Enjoyed (probably not the ‘right’ word)….. Followed with interest (better)….. your series of comments and the responses. I was born in Montgomery, remember looking out the back window of the family car at all those black people walking down the roadside — during the bus boycott that started the ‘modern’ civil rights era. I think you and I are unlikely to be so eloquent that we can explain the warmth that fills my chest when I think of the ‘colored lady’ that used to welcome me home from school. A treasured little snippet in which she is teaching me hymns she’d sung in church with our hands clapping and body swaying.
    How do you explain the deeply mixed up and messily human world that southern whites and blacks grow up in? Doubly tough when you suspect you are talking to someone who’s mind is made up in the matter because: REBEL FLAG!




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  24. grumpy realist says:

    Well….let’s put it this way: if you are from the South, are looking for a job in the North, and when they do a social media scan on you they find you waving the Confederate flag all over the place….

    Let’s just point out you’re probably not going to get that job offer, no matter how much you think you’re jes’ being an ol’ Johnny Reb.




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  25. Tyrell says:

    @grumpy realist: Think about this: a while back some misguided judge upheld a ban on the US flag. – in a public high school !




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  26. Davebo says:

    @Tyrell:

    Dariano v. Morgan Hill Unified School Dist.?

    Definitely a bad decision though a bit more nuanced than “a ban on the US flag”.




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  27. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @JohnMcC:

    You’re expanding beyond his (valid) point. There can be no equivocation with respect to the Confederacy.

    It levied war against the United States. That is the textbook, verbatim constitutional definition of treason.

    In that light, every single person who put on a Confederate uniform and/or fought for the Confederacy was a traitor. Every single one of them, without exception and irrespective of his/her motivation for doing so, was a traitor. Speaking frankly, they are lucky that they weren’t shot after the war as they traitors that they were. Trying to equivocate that based on motivation is, in my opinion, little more than being an apologist. It’s scrubbing the uncomfortable parts of history in order to make it more palatable for the losers – or more to the point, to enable the losers to make having lost more palatable for themselves.

    Part of the reason that we had Jim Crow, and that we still have a laundry list of other problems, is our failure to force the South to accept culpability and admit shame for what it did. Post WW2, we forced ordinary Germans to face concentration camps, and in doing so made it impossible for them to equivocate what had happened there. We never did that to the South – we allowed it to go right back to doing what it had done from the outset in the interest of comity, and that was a grievous error. The Confederacy, if it is to be remembered at all, should only be remembered with shame. What it stood for, what it fought to preserve, is a stain on this nation’s history. Speaking frankly, Southern sensitivity to the issue is of no concern.

    It is unavoidably a flag of treason. No rationalization or historical revisionism can remove that stain from it. It has also become in modern times a rallying banner for white supremacy, so he is correct – there is nothing there to defend. Nothing there which CAN be defended. to refuse to denounce it, without equivocation, on those bases is to defend it. There is no middle ground where treason is concerned.




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  28. Gustopher says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: Sure, why not? Someone should find out who created the button, and ask Hillary if she approves of it.

    I know you’re really just trying to shout “But the Democrats are the real racists!”, but it’s a fine question.

    Until the civil rights era, the Democrats had a pretty good lock on the racist vote down south, and slowly the racists found their home in a different party. As a general rule, Democrats tend to wince at their past, not ignore it.




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  29. Tony W says:

    @James Pearce:

    I think it’s high time the Confederate flag falls and a new flag, an untainted symbol of Southern Pride, can rise in its place

    If this is the best symbol of pride they can come up with, perhaps the South needs to do some work to be more admirable in the first place. To be authentically proud, one must have done something noble. Treason against the United States so that you can preserve the institution of slavery does not exactly meet the bar.




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  30. Modulo Myself says:

    @JohnMcC:

    Spare us, please. The idea that you have a right to force others to treasure your halcyon memories of a violent segregated society in which you are on top is ridiculous. The average nice colored lady had to worry about being raped and assaulted by white men wherever she went. I’m sure there are plenty of white children who have happy memories of a nice colored lady teaching them songs. Then the door closed, the colored lady went upstairs, and the child’s dad had his way with her.

    In fact, the Montgomery bus boycott was fueled partially by the fact that black women were considered fair sexual game by bus drivers and others.




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  31. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    Good point. I was just writing another response to that in which I opined “of course the black lady in that memory was pleasant – she had little choice but to be exactly that, because saying what she actually felt, or speaking out against her situation, wouldn’t exactly have been a good idea.”

    It seemed to me like another one of those “well, I remember it fondly, so I’m sure everybody else involved does as well.” I wonder if he ever asked her how she felt about it?




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  32. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    This isn’t an issue. This is a diversion from actual issues. This is an opportunity for people who desperately need to feel some kind of moral superiority to grab a topic and try to use it as a crutch to boost their own deservedly-so) low self-esteem so they can say “see? We’re better than those horrible racists!” (Who are worse than Nazis!)

    But yeah, let’s ask Hillary about Bill signing a proclamation on the Arkansas state flag that explicitly said that “The blue star above the word “ARKANSAS” is to commemorate the Confederate States of America.”

    Nah. Hillary isn’t taking any questions at all. So put that on the list of “questions to ask her if she ever deigns to actually answer questions.”




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  33. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Well stated. I’ll add that, as a veteran, few things offend me more than seeing the names of traitorous Confederate generals adorning US military bases. The practice is, frankly, a slap in the face and it does unbelievable dishonor to the memory of every US soldier who died defending this nation. Every single one of them should be renamed, yesterday.




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  34. Tillman says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: It is a diversion from substantial issues like gun control and rightist domestic terrorism. But then you bring up some sort of stupid equivocation so I’m fairly certain you don’t care about substance.




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  35. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    This is an opportunity for people who desperately need to feel some kind of moral superiority to grab a topic and try to use it as a crutch to boost their own deservedly-so) low self-esteem so they can say “see? We’re better than those horrible racists!”

    If so, what does that make the people who desperately hang onto a flag symbolizing a failed attempt at treason and rebellion in order to hang onto the institutions of slavery and white supremacy?




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  36. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Tillman: You ever going to run out of excuses to not discuss the massive history of failures of the past 6-odd years?




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  37. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    It’s more a case of “we’re just not interested in feeding your attempts to inject your pet agenda into unrelated topics”.

    Arguing with you is largely pointless. Sidelining you isn’t.




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  38. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: If so, what does that make the people who desperately hang onto a flag symbolizing a failed attempt at treason and rebellion in order to hang onto the institutions of slavery and white supremacy?

    I’ll take that as a serious question, even though I doubt it wasn’t. Here’s how I see the psychology behind it.

    No one, generally, gives a rip about state flags (Sheldon Cooper notwithstanding). They’re largely pointless symbols, and most people probably couldn’t pick their state’s flag out of the lot. Hell, I barely know what mine looks like.

    This current push isn’t aimed at changing anything. I say that because 1) the tactics being used are probably the worst that could be used to actually achieve change, and 2) the people using them aren’t that stupid.

    The move here isn’t about persuasion, it’s about cudgeling. “This is a horrible and racist and evil symbol, and it must go now. If you disagree, you are horrible and racist and evil, too. And if you haven’t always been in agreement with us, you are still horrible and racist and evil.” There’s no attempt at finding a common ground, no gestures of amicability, no diplomacy — it’s designed purely for confrontation, and on a ground where the provokers can lay claim to the high moral ground.

    It isn’t about getting rid of a symbol on a flag that hardly anyone pays attention to. It’s about pushing an issue front and center, to the exclusion of actual relevant matters, and scoring a victory over your political opponents. And then taking that victory and using it as a weapon in future fights. Hell, it might even chase some of the opponents off the field entirely.

    And the OTB authors are buying into it wholesale. It took days for the OPM hacking scandal to get any attention, even though at least one of the authors is most likely a victim, and even then it was pooh-poohed. But how many posts do we have about the Confederate flag on the front page right now? I count three directly related, and at least one indirectly.

    Looks like the staff here knows their audience, and is glad to give them what they want.




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  39. C. Clavin says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:
    Clinton signed a bill that passed the Arkansas Legislature…probably with a veto-proof majority.
    Have you and your man-crush, Zimmerman, gotten together and lamented the loss of your boy, Dylann Roof, yet?




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  40. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @C. Clavin: Clinton signed a bill that passed the Arkansas Legislature…probably with a veto-proof majority.

    “Probably?” Got anything to back that up? And shouldn’t Clinton have stood up for his principles and taken a courageous stance against such blatant racism?

    Oh, that’s right. Clinton (and most other Democrats) get free passes on actually acting principled when given the opportunity.




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  41. JohnMcC says:

    @Modulo Myself: @HarvardLaw92:

    You are both of course correct that the sentiment is being expressed is sympathy for traitors and treason. (Technically, that particular flag was not the “Confederate Flag”….it was one of many flags….just because I’m kind of weird about stuff like that….but, ok)

    My point was that the actual day to day experience that is confidently called ‘the South’ by people don’t know it, is pretty much as accurate in the particular as any other stereotype. But that the stereotype of ‘Southerner’ doesn’t get the usual liberal treatment.

    I didn’t mean to make it a test about ‘will I get a bit on this comment quicker than a jig over that bass right over there will get a big surface hit’. But if I had, you-all would have won.




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  42. Tillman says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: You are proving your devotion to substantial discussion with every following post.




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  43. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Boo frigging hoo. Have some cheese …




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  44. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @C. Clavin: That nutjob shooter said that the huge majority of so-called “racists” are people just talking tough on the internet, but who lack the courage to ever act. (Kind of like you, come to think of it…)

    In that brief moment of lucidity, he showed a greater grasp of reality than you’ve ever demonstrated.




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  45. Blue Galangal says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    But yeah, let’s ask Hillary about Bill signing a proclamation on the Arkansas state flag that explicitly said that “The blue star above the word “ARKANSAS” is to commemorate the Confederate States of America.”

    I think this falls into the “history of our state” category; moreover, it is not the Confederate battle flag. It’s a star, and that star represents an event in the history of the state of Arkansas. It’s a value neutral object insofar as history is concerned, and to the average, or even not-so-average person viewing the flag. It is not meant to, nor does it, invoke a tradition of white supremacy, hatred, terror, and/or rebellion. I’m interested to note that this is apparently the only thing the right wing could dig up on Hillary, and it is by way of association to a ceremonial act performed by her husband when he was governor of Arkansas. She shouldn’t answer questions about this, nor should she have to, because there are no questions to be answered; just a pitiful attempt to brush a false equivalency into the Confederate battle flag narrative.




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  46. mantis says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    It’s about pushing an issue front and center, to the exclusion of actual relevant matters, and scoring a victory over your political opponents.

    Says the guy who thinks the real discussion related to the Charleston killings is about Hillary Clinton.




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  47. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @JohnMcC:

    And I respect that. I’m not saying that every Southerner is some evil racist. I know too many who aren’t for that to ever be a valid belief.

    I WILL say that I have seldom seen such a devotion to selectively seeing issues anywhere else in the country. I just think that it’s not up to us to keep placating the South’s desire to avoid acknowledging the unpleasant. We did that for over 100 years and it got us nowhere but in a mess. We’ve prioritized getting along over moving forward.




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  48. stonetools says:

    Speaking as an African American, they would welcome to keep their d@mned flag, as long as they agreed to start treating minorities fairly and equally, stopped murdering black people for no reason, and in general stopped trying to drag the country back to 1860.
    But if they were like that, they would have turned their back on that flag a while ago.




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  49. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @mantis: Says the guy who thinks the real discussion related to the Charleston killings is about Hillary Clinton.

    More along the lines of, “if you’re going to drag all this up, at least show a smidgen of integrity and consistency and hold your own to the same standard. Or any standard. Just once.”




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  50. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    I’ll take that as a serious question,

    Than please answer my question.




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  51. Tyrell says:

    @HarvardLaw92: I must take exception and respectful disagreement with the views that you have expressed concerning the southern military leaders and their troops involving their actions during the conflict. My family, relatives, teachers, and neighbors instilled in me a knowledge and respect of southern culture, history, heritage, and customs. There was no racism in that, although there were more racists around back then. We and most others stayed away from any form of racism. Many of the southern military people who you refer to went to military schools with people from the north. Many were friends and remained friends even during and after the war. There was a gentlemanly, mutual respect. The halls and grounds of hallowed instutions like West Point, VMI, and the Citadel echo with their memory. These leaders were not there for politics, but to be trained to fight wars of politicians. They fought beside each other in wars before and after the Civil War. In school we learned about great soldiers on both sides: Grant, Lee, McClellan, Burnside, Sherman, Sheridan, Johnston, Jackson, Custer, Hooker, Stuart, and Beauregard: a veritable roll call of honor and courage. After the Civil War, there were often reunions where the soldiers of both armies reunited. There was no rancor, or ill will toward each other. Many of the officers’ descendants became leaders in WWI, WWII. No one was regarded as some kind of traitor. Lincoln himself loved and respected the southern people. He did not seek some sort of vengeful punishment as you prescribe. But Lincoln was gone and others pursued a different, destructive agenda that kept the south down for decades.
    Most southern people did not own slaves, but were just regular farmers.
    I do not think that Davis was a strong leader, but he was well liked also by many people in the north and Washington; who described him as gracious and charming. Lee, although an honorable man, in my opinion, was not a good military strategist.
    So, in summary, many of us were raised on the honor, traditions, and chivalry of the south. Those qualities have not gone away and will remain strong. The southern people reject racism.




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  52. mantis says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    More along the lines of, “if you’re going to drag all this up, at least show a smidgen of integrity and consistency and hold your own to the same standard. Or any standard. Just once.”

    So you think that if one believes it is wrong for a state in the USA to proudly celebrate its past treasonous rebellion in defense of slavery in 2015 by flying the very flag of that treason, one must also go back in time almost 30 years to 1987 and criticize then Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton for signing a law that restated a description of that state’s flag, which was designed in 1912 and had elements meant to commemorate the state’s history, including the confederacy?

    You’re an idiot.




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  53. Modulo Myself says:

    @JohnMcC:

    You’re only explaining the world of a child. None of this is hard to relate to by anybody, and those with privilege often have really pleasant memories.

    Personally, I have warm memories of my grandparents’ black housekeeper in Detroit giving me donuts and talking to me about the Tigers. She’d been with them for years, since the 60s, and Detroit was/is as bad as anywhere in the south. I also have pleasant memories of swimming in the pool at the Detroit Country Club several years (in the 80s) before it was integrated.

    Not only do they have pleasant memories, they often receive reciprocation, even when they don’t deserve it.

    My grandfather was a judge and in the last years of his life, the surviving clerks and bailiffs and others who staffed the court system reached out to him. They were all black and most likely had pretty good sense of how racist he was and how exclusive the Detroit political system was until almost all the rich people fled to Gross Pointe. And yet they reached out to him, doing something that he would never done on his own and channeled–all in their 80s and 90s, probably–their pasts. And when my grandfather died, there was a memorial service for him at the Episcopal church he went to faithfully in Detroit. It used to be 24/7 WASP. The idea that a black person would have been allowed in there would have been laughable. When we went there, there were African murals on the walls and a black minister and an overall total lack of WASPs and yet everyone was happy and curious about my grandfather and his life. Meanwhile, we were finding out that when he bought his condo in Florida there was a nice no-colored clause in it.




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  54. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @JohnMcC:

    I’ll say this as well: there is a great deal about which the South rightly has justification to feel pride. 8 presidents, including some of our founding fathers and greatest Americans, hail from Virginia. Maya Angelou. William Faulkner. Jazz. The list goes on and on.

    Why it would want to taint all of those accomplishments by still pushing this ridiculous obsession with reimagining a wartime history in which its motivations and its conduct were undeniably wrong (and evil) escapes me.

    It seems to me that Southerners would be (or should be) chomping at the bit to denigrate that series of events – to stand up and say “We were wrong. What we did back then, and in the years afterward during Jim Crow, was unavoidably and undeniably wrong. We denounce it in the strongest terms, because who we were is not who we are. In that light, we are disabusing ourselves of this flag of evil.”

    Doing so would go a long way towards convincing the rest of us to believe it. Just saying …




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  55. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Tyrell:

    So, in summary, many of us were raised on the honor, traditions, and chivalry of the south.

    In summary, many of you were raised on the lies of the Lost Cause narrative. Sorry, no joy there.

    What the South did and what it was fighting to preserve in the civil war was evil. What Confederate soldiers did was commit treason. I don’t care how gentlemanly they might have been. They were traitors – every single one of them – and until you can face and accept that reality, you are lying to yourself and perpetuating a distortion of history. What you are taking exception to is the discomfort of having that self-delusion pointed out to you in no uncertain terms.

    You’re a perfect example of what I have been describing – this determination to ignore reality and reinvent history in a way that allows you to escape having to face and accept some ugly truths. Sorry, that doesn’t fly. “Birth of a Nation” isn’t playing in this theater.




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  56. grumpy realist says:

    @stonetools: If the Confederate flag really is just a Southern thing, then why do you see it so often plastered all over the possessions of white trash/white power idjits in the North? (There’s a reason why Pennsylvania is called Pennsultucky.)

    Sorry, guys, but whatever cred that flag had as an indication of “genteel Southern culture” was swamped by its use during the Civil Rights period as an indication of anti-civil-rights feeling (which is when the damn thing went up the flagpole South Carolina, IIRC.)

    Slap it out of the hands of the people who are using it as a big “F-U” towards their darker-skinned neighbors and keep it away from them for 50 years, and you might, just might, be able to reclaim it. But I doubt it.




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  57. Steve V says:

    I believe they call it “a Sister Souljah moment.”




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  58. bill says:

    loser flags don’t kill people- just like spoons don’t make you fat ,etc. let’s all get hysterical about it now…..




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  59. Tillman says:

    @Blue Galangal: Obviously you’re inconsistently making your points without any consideration of integrity or substance.




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  60. C. Clavin says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:
    You are illustrating your grasp of reality with every single comment you make.




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  61. C. Clavin says:

    @Tyrell:

    The southern people reject racism.

    And yet a symbol of white supremacy flies over the South Carolina Capital.




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  62. JohnMcC says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Industrial agriculture based on slave labor completely took over the economy of the whole US following the introduction of the cotton gin. The slaves held by Southern plantation owners were the single most valuable industrial property in the whole nation; they exceeded the value of every railroad, of every textile mill, every canal — everything.

    And industrial slave labor contaminated the south. If there had been a method by which Africans held in slavery had an opportunity to liberate themselves or their children had been assumed to be free (both systems of slavery have existed in human history) how different our nation would have turned out!

    What is called the ‘Confederate Flag’ was a battle ensign of the Army of Northern Virginia. The government of the CSA flew something called the Stars and Bars. The particular version of the ‘Confederate Flag’ used most commonly (a rectangle not a square) is something called the Tennessee Flag if you are like me and like to be kind of precise about stuff like that. The controversy, such as it is, and popularity of the so-called ‘Confederate Flag’ goes back to the 1950s and ’60s as an emblem of southern resistance to civil rights. It was never part of ‘southern heritage’ until a bunch of unreconstructed racists made it their own.

    @Modulo Myself:You understand, then, that race is not some symbolic issue but one just full of the mingling of humans in moments when we are good and bad, strong and weak, etc…




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  63. James Pearce says:

    Gov. Haley is on CNN right now. The flag is coming down.




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  64. wr says:

    @Tyrell: “I do not think that Davis was a strong leader, but he was well liked also by many people in the north and Washington; who described him as gracious and charming”

    If you ever want to understand one thing that Northeners hate about the South, it’s this. Jefferson Davis committed treason against his country, waging a war that killed hundreds of thousands on both sides, to protect the ability of rich whites to own other human beings.

    But you can’t see any of that evil because he was “gracious” and “charming.”

    To a sane person, crimes committed against nation and against humanity can’t be excused because you’re a pleasant dinner companion.




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  65. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @JohnMcC:

    I’m well aware of that. The point remains that the South went to war to preserve the concept of treating human beings as property and the economic benefit it obtained from the practice.

    I should probably expand my statement to assert that ANY flag utilized by units of the Confederacy is a flag of treason. That this one particular example also serves as a banner for white supremacists just further sullies an already irrevocably filthy item. All of them belong nowhere but in museums, and even then only as examples of how badly human beings can go off of the reservation. They’re cautionary tales, not emblems of virtue.

    In that context, it’s difficult for me to accept that, say, South Carolina has indeed moved beyond and condemns its racist past when it places such an emblem in a position of honor. That its citizens haven’t forced its removal speaks volumes about how reconstructed they as a society might actually be.




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  66. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @James Pearce: She called for it to come down. Only a 2/3rds majority vote of the legislature can actually bring it down. I’ll believe that when I see it happen. I’m hopeful, but not entirely convinced.




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  67. Monala says:

    @wr: There’s a scene in Schindler’s List in which Oskar Schindler talks to the Jewish accountant, Itzhak Stern, about the concentration camp leader, Amon Goeth. Schindler is arguing that Goeth can’t possibly be a bad guy because, “He likes fine wine! He likes great music! He likes beautiful women!”

    To which Stern responds, “He likes killing!”




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  68. James Pearce says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    She called for it to come down. Only a 2/3rds majority vote of the legislature can actually bring it down.

    Yeah, I know. But if she puts any effort into it, and it sound like she is, it’s hard to see how it doesn’t come down.




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  69. michael reynolds says:

    So, let’s see. The flag went up in 1962. If it comes down in 2015 that will be 53 years.

    We now can pinpoint the precise extent of conservative developmental lag.




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  70. steve says:

    “it’s hard to see how it doesn’t come down.”

    Easy. The vote won’t happen for weeks or months. By then this will be a distant memory. Haley comes out looking good because she called for the flag coming down, then can claim she is deferring to the will of the people when they vote to keep it.




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  71. James Pearce says:

    @steve:

    The vote won’t happen for weeks or months. By then this will be a distant memory.

    Oh ye of little faith. The “pro” Confederate side of the Confederate Flag side are weirdos, have no real argument for the flag to stay, and are opposed by ambitious and fairly high-level Republican leaders.

    Who’s going to drag this out?




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  72. Grumpy Realist says:

    @James Pearce: the yahoos called the base of the Republican Party. Expect one of the lesser POTUS candidates jump on the bandwagon can’t start blathering about “Ouh HERRITAAGE!”

    Florence King noted in her book Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady the tendency of little old ladies in the South on a genealogy kick to trace their ancestors back to Bonnie Prince Charlie or other European royalty in spite of any lack of evidence. The Confederate Flag buffs seem to do the same, ignoring how ghastly their wonderful Southern system was for many people.




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  73. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @C. Clavin: Wrong. It flies on the State House grounds, where it doesn’t belong (a position I’ve held in the 26 years I’ve lived here). One thing positive that came out of the Charleston horror is that Republicans with national pretensions pretty well understand that they’ve got to let the flag go. Too late, but better late than never.




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  74. JohnMcC says:

    @HarvardLaw92: We do not disagree. Let me repeat: We do not disagree. Plantation slavery was a horrible blotch and moral stain on the southern states and to some extent on the entire U.S. Taking up arms against the Constitution is (and was) treason. But there is more one could know about the south and it’s people than that we are ignorant and evil because: REBEL FLAG!




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  75. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @JohnMcC:

    And I agree with you about that. There is a great deal more to the South than “this”. My point is that the rest of that narrative is drowned out by this incomprehensible insistence on the part of many Southerners to creatively reimagine their own history and edit out the bad parts. Their reticence to accept the truth and seeming determination to preserve symbols like this flag cause the rest of us to be reluctant to take their claims of having moved beyond racism at face value.

    That is a self-inflicted impediment which by necessity is the responsibility of the South to mitigate. There is a great deal more to Germany than what happened over a relatively brief period of their history under Hitler, but if a swastika was still flying down in Munich, well, I think you get the point …




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