The embers of the Confederacy glow within the Republican Party. A century and a half has passed since Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse, but the GOP’s 2016 would-be nominees can’t bring themselves to say that South Carolina needs to stop flying the Confederate Battle Flag.
That’s a problem for what was once the Party of Lincoln as it hurtles toward the 2016 presidential election.
With the exceptions of Ohio Governor John Kasich and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, the Republican Party’s prospective nominees appear constitutionally incapable of owning up to the fact that the Confederate flag belongs in a museum, and not on the grounds of the South Carolina statehouse. And yes, South Carolina’s place in the GOP’s primary calendar, coupled with the South’s dependability as a Sea of Red on Election Night, make it a seemingly tough call for the Republicans.
Get over it.
Winning the South Carolina Primary is no longer the brass ring on the road to the Republican nomination. Just ask Newt Gingrich.
Gingrich, the former House Speaker, won the 2012 South Carolina Primary, but then managed to capture only one more state, his home state of Georgia, garnering less than 150 delegates when the shouting was over—nowhere enough to have his name placed in nomination.
As for the general election, let’s look at the numbers and reality. These days being the Party of the South doesn’t get you very far. George H.W. Bush, in 1988, was the last Republican to win both a first presidential term and the popular vote. In 2012, President Obama was reelected after winning only 39 percent of the white vote, the largest deficit of white votes of any successful Democratic candidate.
And in case anyone has been watching, Virginia, the Seat of the Confederacy and General Lee’s home, twice voted for Barack Obama, and sends two Democrats to the U.S. Senate. Meanwhile, Florida went for Obama both times.
Clearly, America and its demographics are changing. Modernity is finally here.
Yet, adaptability is not looking like a Republican strength. According to South Carolina U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, the Confederate flag “this is part of who we are. The flag represents—to some people—the Civil War, and that was the symbol of one side.” Indeed it is.
You get to rebel against the Union, lose the war, but keep the Confederate flag for old time’s sake? Only in America.
But Graham then let the cat out of the bag when he said, “to others, it’s a racist symbol, and it’s been used by people in a racist way.” Like in the year 2015 A.D. Is there any other way to use it?
Heck, Michael Hill at the League of South has no problem letting you know how he feels, it’s the Stars and Stripes that need to go:
We in The League of the South agree that a flag should be taken down. Not the most recognizable historic flag of the South but the flag of our occupiers for the last 150 years … That ugly gridiron now stands for multiculturalism, tolerance, and diversity—the left’s unholy trinity ... It represents the homosexual agenda, open borders and Third World immigration, a culture that is an open sewer, perpetual war for perpetual profit, among many other enormities.
And despite all this, the Republican field won’t confront the issue head-on. Sen. Marco Rubio was mealy mouthed when it came to the Confederate flag:
What I do think is important to remember is that the people of South Carolina have dealt with this issue before. They have found a bipartisan consensus over a decade ago on moving that flag to a new location. And I have confidence in their ability to deal with that issue again. So I think it’s important to let the people of South Carolina move forward on it.
“Move forward”? If you think of punting the football on fourth down as moving forward then yes, Rubio is in favor of moving forward.
As for Ted Cruz, he was uncharacteristically muted, at least he tried to be, calling the flag “a question for South Carolina,” adding that “the last thing they need is people from outside of the state coming in and dictating how they should resolve it.”
But then Cruz couldn’t resist, “But 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.”
What other traditions is Texas’s junior senator thinking about? Plantation life, the Corner Stone Speech of Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens, Strom Thurmond’s 1948 presidential bid as a Dixiecrat, or Cruz’s own dad siding back with Fidel Castro in the Old Country, until he came to the U.S. seeking asylum? Yeah, traditions.
As for Rand Paul, M.D., he framed the shootings in clinical terms, “What kind of person goes in a church and shoots nine people? …There’s a sickness in our country; there’s something terribly wrong.” Thank you Dr. Paul.
This is the same Dr. Paul whose former aide, Jack Hunter, made headlines when it came to light that he was once known as the “Southern Avenger,” a radio shock jock who had made provocative comments about the Civil War and race.
Rather than dither and deflect, the GOP should take a page out of Bill Clinton’s playbook, engage in some political jujitsu of their own, and make the Confederate flag their own Sister Souljah moment. Clinton had the courage to say that race-baiting from the African-American community had no place within the Democratic Party.
Republicans should do the same and denounce the Confederate flag. The Civil War should have been over by now.
And one more thing, this coming July 4th, all presidential wannabees should visit the Civil War battlefields at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, hallowed grounds, where Americans fought and died fighting each other. History still has lessons to be taught and learned.