South Carolina is a state infamous for whisper campaigns and dirty political tricks, and the Post and Courier asked readers to help expose them. Today, it turned up a doozy—a robocall attacking Donald Trump for supporting Nikki Haley’s move to take the Confederate battle flag off the state capitol grounds. “Trump talks about our flag like it’s a social disease,” the narrator says. It’s paid for by the Courageous Conservatives PAC, which says it’s “committed to the election of Ted Cruz as President.”
As I wrote last June, there’s a specific history to the use of this particular flag as a political symbol, and it’s doesn’t stretch back as far as many think:
Georgia inserted the battle flag into its state flag in 1956. Two years later, South Carolina made it a crime to desecrate the Confederate flag. And then, on the centennial of the day South Carolina opened fire on Fort Sumter came in 1961, it hoisted the battle flag above its Capitol.
It was a symbol of heritage—but that heritage was hateful. Two state delegations, in Charleston to mark that 1961 centennial, found themselves barred from the hotel where the ceremony was to take place because they included black members. President Kennedy had to issue an executive order moving the commemoration to the Charleston Navy Base. And when the centennial ended, the flag stayed, proclaiming that South Carolina might have lost the war, but that it was determined not to surrender its opposition to racial equality.
It was the Republican elected officials of South Carolina—most notably Senator Lindsey Graham and Governor Nikki Haley—who courageously helped the state close the book on this chapter of its history. Ted Cruz, meanwhile, was hardly a profile in courage.