(WTNH) Yesterday’s unambiguous call by South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley for the Confederate flag to be removed from the grounds of the state capital building gave some the impression that the flag would be lowered and mothballed before the sun set over Columbia tonight.
But this is very unlikely. The legislative roadblocks to prevent such a move are substantial in the Palmetto State, and it’s all but a certainty that the body of Reverend Clementa Pinckney will lie in state tomorrow in the shadow of a still-flying flag that, to many, nostalgically represents the war — sorry, the heritage — aimed at insuring his ancestors remained enslaved.
Pinckney, who was also a state senator, and eight of his parishioners were killed by an alleged white supremacist who, judging by the pictures revealed on a website found over the weekend, identified with the Confederate flag quite a bit. There’s a disconnect for the ages; a symbol of, in this case, the psychopathic hatred that led to mass murder waving brightly in the southern sun as throngs of people mourning those who died will be gathering below.
But back to the flag-removal timetable. When protestors in 2000 managed to get the Confederate battle flag at least taken down from the top of the capital building’s dome and moved to a nearby flagpole, state lawmakers made sure it wouldn’t be easy to budge it any further from there. Not only will it take a two-thirds vote of both chambers to ditch the flag, it requires a two-thirds vote by legislators to even bring it up for discussion. Call me a pessimist, but I don’t see that happening in the next few hours.
Despite those hurdles, I believe the flag will come down, let’s say, before the South Carolina presidential primary next year. It’s going to be increasingly awkward for the GOP White Housel contenders to have to defend their tepid “it’s up to South Carolina” stance at every campaign stop. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who stands to hear the question more than most, was against taking the flag down before he was in favor of it. But there he was with Governor Haley yesterday in her press conference, giving literal meaning to the expression “taking political cover.” Haley herself might be vice-presidential material, except for that nagging matter of the racist — sorry, historical — flag flying outside her office. And if political considerations don’t carry the day on their own, economic ones will also kick in; tourism is a major industry in South Carolina, and with tourist and convention boycotts now a possibility, it’s no wonder the Charleston Chamber of Commerce also saw the light yesterday and called for removal of the flag.
Politics and commerce will bring about change as fast as anything. Not to mention that nine people were shot to death by a young man who displayed the flag proudly. That should also figure in their thinking.