Whatever Did It, It’s Done

So today SC Gov. Nikki Haley and both Republican U.S. Senators finally changed positions and called for the removal of the Confederate Battle Flag that flies on the Statehouse grounds at a Confederate memorial. This is not some sort of profile in courage. Similar steps have been taken in other southern states (Mississippi joins South Carolina as the remaining states subject to a NCAA post-season boycott the NAACP requested). The “compromise” in 2000 that moved the Battle Flag from the top of the State Capital to the Statehouse grounds, making it the first thing many visitors saw when in the vicinity, wasn’t remotely enough.

It’s nicely ironic that Dylann Roof’s hopes of inciting a race war with his terrorist attack on Emanuel AME Church instead led to this symbolic but significant act. I suspect the prime mover in this development aside from simple shame was the agony of the national GOP, whose presidential candidates were being forced to deal with an issue that divided “the base” in an early primary state from the rest of the country.

My own basic feeling as a long-time opponent of Confederate insignia as a profanation of my native Southland (I was actually born not far from the flag in question in Columbia) is reminiscent of the reaction of the cartoonist Thomas Nast to Grover Cleveland’s breakthrough presidential victory in 1884 (the first Democratic win since 1856). Nast cited a lot of explanations of “what did it,” and then concluded: “Whatever did it, it’s done.” Or so it seems, at least; I wouldn’t go to sleep on the South Carolina legislature until the change is consummated.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.