South Carolina state Rep. Norman “Doug” Brannon announced on Friday night that he would introduce a bill to remove the Confederate flag from the state capitol, citing the death of Sen. Clementa Pinckney during the terrorist attack in Charleston earlier this week.I wish this could be done sooner. It's hard enough to imagine the legislature and governor changing the law at this moment, much less next winter, when most people will have forgotten this week's massacre. As the Los Angeles Times reported this week, it's an uphill battle:
“I had a friend die Wednesday night for no reason other than he was a black man,” Brannon, a Republican, told MSNBC host Chris Hayes in a phone interview. “Senator Pinckney was an incredible human being. I don’t want to talk politics, but I’m gonna introduce the bill for that reason.”
... “Again, I’m not a politician tonight,” Brannon asserted. “But I do have access, and I will introduce that bill in December. I will pre-file in December, before we go back into session.”
Why can’t state leaders take down this old, embattled standard, or even lower it to half-staff?Still, I give Representative Brannon credit for this promise. I don't know much about him, and I'm sure I'd disagree with a lot of his positions, but I do see him being attacked by South Carolina Tea Partiers for supporting a gas-tax increase and for sponsoring a bill that would establish standards for homeschoolers, so clearly, unlike many Republicans, he's willing to make enemies on the right.
They are not allowed to -- not without a two-thirds vote of both houses of the Republican-controlled state Legislature. A law enacted in 2000, which removed the rebel flag from the dome of the statehouse, the last state capitol over which it flew, prevents any modifications to state monuments without a supermajority.
That part of the law makes it extremely unlikely that such a vote could be successful anytime soon.
“It’s like getting political Ebola,” said David Woodard, a longtime Republican political consultant and professor of political science at Clemson University, of the Confederate flag issue. “Any time you touch it you’re going to make more enemies than friends.”
... Then-Gov. David Beasley lost reelection in 1998, in part because of his campaign to take down the Confederate flag, Woodard said.
Which makes me think about the presidential race. I don't know how many of the Republican candidates are going to revise their initial responses to the Charleston shooting and acknowledge the shooter's racial anger, but one thing I don't expect is hectoring on this subject from the Ron Fournier crowd. You know -- the folks who were so upset when it was reported that Hillary Clinton might not tack to the center in her campaign? None of those people are going to chide the Republican presidential candidates for their hesitancy to talk about the shooting a racial act, or for their refusal to call for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from South Carolina's capitol grounds.
Jeb Bush, it should be noted, had the Confederate flag removed from the capitol in Tallahassee in 2001. But I imagine even he won't say that South Carolina should follow that example. And no centrist pundit will criticize him for that, or ask why the rest of the field won't criticize the flag.