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South Carolina Removes Confederate Treason Flag That U.S. House Republicans Can't Quit
It took 13 hours of debate and disposing of a boatload of dumb amendments designed to slow down the process, but the South Carolina House of Representatives finally voted -- at 1 AM Eastern Thursday -- to remove the Confederate flag from the statehouse grounds. And for all the angry talk about slaps in the face of the honored Confederate dead, the vote wasn't even close: 94-20, well more than the 2/3 majority necessary under the state's stupid flag law. The bill is headed to Gov. Nikki Haley, who has said she would sign it, and the flag should be removed by the weekend, even despite the very real risk that the Devil will take over our great land because of gay marriage.
A whole big chunk of the day was taken up by Republican Rep. Michael A. Pitts, who kept introducing amendments to delay or modify the bill -- like a requirement to display all the various national flags of the Confederacy in a glass case near the Confederate memorial where the flag currently flies -- plus of course explaining that the flag wasn't the least bit racist, no no not at all:
Mr. Pitts stood up, sometimes for 20 minutes at a stretch, defending each amendment with rambling speeches spiked with jokes about his wife and his hearing aids, with sidebars about the Trail of Tears and his grandfather’s lack of racial animus, about poor Southerners in 1861 who did not know the war was about states’ rights or slavery, but only “what they heard at the general store,” which was that the “Northern States are attacking the Southern States.”
Other Republicans liked an amendment that called for a referendum, so that The People could decide. In 2016, during the general election.
And then, of course, because they're now a mandatory part of every political debate on every issue from gun control to parking regulations, there were the death threats. Mark A. Keel, chief of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, said that "Legislators on both sides of the issue have received communications that include death threats" and noted, helpfully, that "That’s not free speech; it’s illegal to threaten to kill or injure a public official or their immediate family.” This is useful information that many folks may want to keep on a laminated card in their wallet, just in case they're not sure.
At around 8 PM, Republican Jenny Horne gave a brief speech that may have helped shame some of her colleagues to drop the bullshit, reminding them that the vote was about a symbol of segregation and racism that had been embraced by a mass murderer. You know how sometimes you have to skip the videos on Wonkette? This is not one of those videos you should skip:
“I cannot believe that we do not have the heart in this body to do something meaningful such as take a symbol of hate off these grounds on Friday,” Horne said, shouting through tears. “For the widow of Sen. Pinckney and his two young daughters, that would be adding insult to injury.”
As for the Honored Confederate Dead, Horne said, maybe it's time to just let them stay buried and remember that the stupid war ended a long time ago, and that the flag's modern connotations of hatred and white supremacy have made its presence at the statehouse intolerable:
If we amend this bill, we are telling the people of Charleston, 'We don't care about you. We do not care that someone used this symbol of hate to slay eight innocent people who were worshiping their God.'
I am sorry; I have heard enough about heritage. I have a heritage; I'm a lifelong South Carolinian. I am a descendant of Jefferson Davis, O.K., but that does not matter ... It's about the people of South Carolina who have demanded that this symbol of hate come off of the Statehouse grounds.
Horne later told The Washington Post that her speech wasn't planned in advance:
At that point we were losing the vote. It was going south ... If what I did changed the course of the debate, and I do believe it did, then it needed to be done. Because that flag needed to come down a long time ago.
And now, when the Ku Klux Klan comes to town on July 18, they'll have to bring their own treason rags, because the state will have taken its own version down and put it in a museum, where relics belong.
Gov. Nikki Haley will hold a ceremony to sign the bill at 4 p.m. Eastern Thursday afternoon; the flag is expected to come down for good at 10 a.m. on Friday.
Your turn, Mississippi.
Meanwhile, at the national level, and at almost the same time as South Carolina was finally deciding to get right on the Confederate flag, grown-up Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives unexpectedly moved to support the grand old banner of the Southern Insurrection. On Tuesday, the House passed Democratic-sponsored amendments to a funding bill for the Department of Interior that would have restricted the display of the Confederate flag at national cemeteries and limited sales of Confederate flag-themed souvenirs at national parks. The amendments had passed on a voice vote with little debate, but Wednesday night, Republicans turned around and announced that a new vote would be held Thursday to undo them, apparently after expressions of indignation from some southern congressweasels, like Rep. Steve Palazzo of Mississippi, who went all Birth Of A Nation in a written statement:
I strongly oppose the inclusion of this amendment, which was slipped into the bill in the dead of night with no debate. Congress cannot simply re-write history and strip the Confederate flag from existence. Members of Congress from New York and California cannot wipe away 150 years of Southern history with sleight-of-hand tactics ... I will fight to ensure that this language is not included in any bill signed into law.
Not surprisingly, the reversal on the Confederate flag had more to do with keeping the entire Republican caucus happy than with cemetery and park policy -- since Democrats already oppose the bill's terrible environmental priorities, and weren't inclined to vote for it anyway, Republicans can't afford any butthurt southern Republicans to withhold their support. And so while you won't find any Confederate knickknacks in Walmart, they'll still be available at national park gift shops, all for the sake of an Interior bill that helps polluters. Isn't representative democracy a beautiful thing?