22 June 2015

Can We Please Not Talk Silver Linings Here?

Gov. Nikki R. Haley called on Monday for South Carolina to do what just a week ago seemed politically impossible — remove the Confederate battle flag from its perch in front of the State House building here. She argued that a symbol long revered by many Southerners was for some, after the church massacre in Charleston, a “deeply offensive symbol of a brutally offensive past.”

“The events of this week call upon us to look at this in a different way,” said Ms. Haley, an Indian-American, who is the first member of an ethnic minority to serve as governor of the state as well as the first woman.

She spoke at an afternoon news conference, surrounded by Democratic and Republican lawmakers including both of the state’s United States senators, Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, an African-American. “Today we are here in a moment of unity in our state, without ill will, to say it’s time to move the flag from the capitol grounds,” she said.

It was a dramatic turnabout for Ms. Haley, a second-term Republican governor who over her five years in the job has displayed little interest in addressing the intensely divisive issue of the flag. But her new position demonstrated the powerful shock that last Wednesday’s killings at Emanuel A.M.E. Church have delivered to the political status quo, mobilizing leaders at the highest levels.
For Haley, and her ilk, this is not a moral decision, it is merely one of political expedience.

Businesses have never been particularly fond of the flag, and the controversy that it engenders, but politicians who pander to racism (largely the Republican party these days) have been afraid about a backlash from a fanatical minority come election day.

The terrorist attack on the Emanuel A.M.E. Church has changed this political calculus, for a while at least.

I hope that the legislature moves quickly.


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