Confederate battle flag becomes 2016 campaign issue
As seems to be the case, whenever national news presents a new divisive issue to discuss, the question must be posed to the 2016 candidates to see where they stand. The tragic murder of nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston has underscored the question of whether the confederate flag should continue flying anywhere on the capital grounds in South Carolina given the racial motivation for the killings.
ABC News has gathered the candidate positions, I’ve assembled them below.
In favor of removing the flag:
Former New York Gov. George Pataki, a Republican, was one of the first 2016 contenders to call for the flag’s removal.
“In the 21st century, that flag shouldn’t be on the Capitol ground in the state of South Carolina,” Pataki said on Fox News. “I think they’ll do the right thing. They’ll remove the flag.”
Jeb Bush, also a Republican, believes the Confederate flag should be taken down from the South Carolina State Capitol, as was done in Florida during his tenure as governor, a Bush spokesperson told ABC News.
Lindsey Graham, one of South Carolina’s Republican senators, called for the removal of the flag, saying it would be “another step towards healing and recognition” as the state mourns the murder of nine African Americans at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston last week.
“In the worst of tragedies, we have seen the best of South Carolina. Today, I am urging that the Confederate Battle Flag be removed from statehouse grounds to an appropriate location. After the tragic, hate-filled shooting in Charleston, it is only appropriate that we deal once and for all with the issue of the flag,” Graham said.
Hillary Clinton, a Democrat, weighed in on the South Carolina confederate flag debate back in 2007 and still holds the view that it should be removed.
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, called for the flag to be removed in a speech at the U.S. Conference of Mayors in San Francisco on Sunday.
“What a terribly jarring and callous sight then — in the wake of this racist massacre — to see the American flag at half-staff, while above it at full-staff over the state capitol of South Carolina flew a Confederate flag,” O’Malley said. “If the families of Charleston can forgive … can let go of their anger … is it really too much to ask the state government officials of South Carolina to retire the Confederate flag to a museum?”
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, described the flag as a “relic of our nation’s stained racial history” when calling for its removal.
Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who has yet to announce whether he will run for president, initially said the people of South Carolina should decide whether the flag is removed, but later announced his support for taking down the flag after South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley called for its removal.
No firm position on the matter:
Many declared and potential 2016 candidates wouldn’t give a clear answer on whether the flag should be removed. Republican candidates including Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio, and Rick Santorum have argued the decision should be made by the people of South Carolina.
“This is a decision that needs to be made here in South Carolina,” Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania, told ABC News’ Martha Raddatz on “This Week” Sunday.
“We’ll let the states decide that, but again, just like the gun issue, let’s have that debate at the right time. And right now we should all be in mourning,” Louisiana Gov. Jindal told ABC News’ Rick Klein in an interview Friday.
“I don’t personally display it anywhere. So it’s not an issue for me,” Former Arkansas Gov. Huckabee said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday. “That’s an issue for the people of South Carolina.”
“I think that’s a question for South Carolina. And the last thing they need is people from outside of the state coming in and dictating how they should resolve it,” Cruz said this weekend.
“I understand the passions that this debate evokes on both sides,” the senator from Texas told the Washington Post, “both those who see a history of racial oppression and a history of slavery, which is the original sin of our nation … [and] those who want to remember the sacrifices of their ancestors and the traditions of their states, not the racial oppression, but the historical traditions.”
“I applaud Governor Haley for her leadership at this difficult time. I appreciate and respect her statement that ‘This is South Carolina’s statehouse, it is South Carolina’s historic moment, and this will be South Carolina’s decision,'” said Rubio, of Florida. “I have no doubt that given how the people of South Carolina have dealt with this tragedy so far, they will continue to inspire the nation with their courage, compassion and unity.”
“Well, I can tell you, you can put up Confederate flags everywhere or you could get rid of them,” Carson said on Fox News Sunday. “It’s not going to make any difference. What’s going to make a difference is do we change people’s hearts and minds. Now, I do recognize that some things are inflammatory. … The Confederate flag causes a lot of people angst and they’re not able to see beyond that. And I think the people of South Carolina should really sit down and have an intelligent discussion about what can they use that captures their heritage, captures the heritage of America and allows them to coexist in peace.”
“I don’t think it’s my decision. I think it’s the people of South Carolina’s decision,” Fiorina told reporters Friday. “I think it’s clearly a symbol that is very offensive to many, but my personal opinion is not what’s relevant here.”
“The decision to remove the Confederate flag needs to be made by the people of South Carolina, and Gov. Haley’s leadership today honors the people of Charleston, and the families of the victims of last week’s horrific hate crime. Removing the flag is an act of healing and unity, that allows us to find a shared purpose based on the values that unify us,” Perry said. “May God continue to be with the families of the victims in Charleston, and the great people of South Carolina.”
ABC News did not immediately receive responses from the campaigns of Lincoln Chafee, Chris Christie, Rand Paul, and Donald Trump.
The divisions cut somewhat politically, and even further into differences between which candidates are relying primarily on southern votes to carry them in the primary contest. As noted by the Washington Post, the confederate flag is nothing new in the world of politics, though it seems to creep into the national conversation every so often.
May God bless the people of Charleston and the families who lost loved ones in this hate-filled attack on humanity.