The Lincoln Project is a PAC formed by Steve Schmidt, John Weaver, Rick Wilson, and George Conway. I don't trust any of these people. They are former Republicans temporarily embarrassed by Donald Trump and his criminal vaudeville performance as president, but they're still conservatives and will likely support whatever superficially benign post-Trump nightmare the GOP inflicts upon us next. (Wave to the folks at home, Nikki Haley!)

But the Lincoln Project's latest ad caught my attention.

The men who followed [the Confederate] flag 150 years ago knew what it meant — treason against their country, the death of the United States. America defeated the men who followed that flag. Those with honor surrendered and cast it aside forever.

Wow! Someone secretly replaced their copies of the National Review with The 1619 Project.


Black folks have dragged the Confederate flag for years, but this is a new position for conservatives to take. As recently as December, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley claimed that the flag had represented "service, and sacrifice, and heritage" until Dylann Roof — a white supremacist who murdered black people — somehow sullied its upstanding reputation. This is “Lost Cause" bullshit, but that's probably how Haley believed you win Republican primary races in the South.

During the 2016 campaign, a pro-Ted Cruz PAC ran ads painting Donald Trump as a damn Yankee who hated the flag.

People like Donald Trump are always butting their noses into other people's businesses. Trump talks about our flag like it's a social disease.

Cruz disavowed the ad but walked the same absurd line as Haley: Sure, some people — say, the descendants of slaves — associate the Confederate flag with a "history of racial oppression," but other people — say, Republican voters in the South — don't think the flag represents "racial oppression," but "historical traditions," such as racial oppression.

Even when calling for the flag's removal in 2015, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott had to grit his teeth and declare, "I do not believe the vast majority of folks who support the flag have hate in their hearts. Their heritage is a part of our state's history, and we should not ignore that. However, for so many others in our state, the flag represents pain and oppression."

The poor bastard couldn't even say “black people." Roof's victims weren't even cold yet in the ground and Scott couldn't speak the truth that the Confederate flag was an offensive reminder of racial terror. It was placed above South Carolina's Capitol in 1962, presumably to honor the anniversary of the Civil War, which the Confederacy lost by the way. But it was really a symbol of the government's "commitment to black subordination" and opposition to integration and civil rights.

The Lincoln Project is now directly linking the flag to Trumpism and “quiet parts out loud" bigotry.

So why does [the Confederate flag] keep showing up today at events supporting Donald Trump?

In fairness, the Confederate flag probably showed up at events supporting past Republican presidents. When Ronald Reagan spoke at the Neshoba County Fair in Mississippi, the Confederate iconography was everywhere.

From The Washington Post:

The grounds — where a campaigning Ronald Reagan once came to declare his belief in "states' rights" — were festooned with state flags and Confederate banners. They were draped from many of the hundreds of cottages that ring the red-dirt horse-racing track. They lolled outside the RVs parked beneath the pines. They flapped from the back of pickup trucks.

Reagan made not-so-subtle racial appeals to “George Wallace voters" and white evangelicals. The Lincoln Project — named after the Republican president who died fighting the Confederacy — seems willing to let Trump have these voters because they are, as a wise woman once observed, “deplorable."

Why does Trump call the people who carry [the Confederate flag] “very fine people"? What does it say that they're all in for Trump? What does it say that he won't condemn the flag of hate, division, and losers?

Trump's shameful “very fine people" line was once a mainstream position among Republicans regarding the Confederacy. Republicans either overtly supported the flag or, like George W. Bush, dismissed it as a “state issue," a winking nod to “states' rights."

This is a time for choosing: America or Trump.

The spot ends with Trump's name placed over the Confederate flag. Twenty or even 10 years ago, it would surprise me if moderate Democrats ran an ad this scathing about the Confederate flag. Now, avowed conservatives are relegating it to the ash heap of history where it belongs. I'm still not on board with the Lincoln Project, but I approve this message.

[Twitter]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).

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