The contrast between Vincent Sheheen and Nikki Haley will be sharp on a lot of issues, and we’ll get to them over the coming months.
But today, I want to highlight the difference between them on the Confederate flag flying on our State House grounds, as a window into broader differences. (And why that issue today? Because today is the 10th anniversary of the day it moved from the dome to the spot behind the soldier monument.)
Gina Smith in The State provided the following vignettes showing the difference. From Vincent Sheheen:
If elected governor in November, Sheheen said he is open to discussing the removal of the flag from the State House grounds. He was elected to the S.C. House a year after the compromise.
“We must develop an environment that creates jobs,” Sheheen said. “We cannot give up any edge that South Carolina has in attracting a large employer coming to South Carolina. After the last eight years, we must be proactive in creating a positive image of our state to the world.”
Sheheen offers no details, though, including locations where he would consider having the flag relocated.
“I have no predetermined proposal on the flag, but would like to work with legislative leaders, business leaders and community leaders to finally reach consensus. My job as governor will be to bring people together to reach consensus on how best to heal any divisions, including the flag,” he said.
It is unclear whether Sheheen supports the NAACP’s boycott.
And from Nikki Haley:
Haley wasn’t elected to the House until 2004. Haley believes a compromise was reached and the issue resolved.
“It was settled and it has been put away. And I don’t have any intentions of bringing it back up or making it an issue,” she said in a recent interview with the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
Instead, Haley said her focus is on making state government more transparent and more business-friendly. “If the people aren’t focused on the flag, it’s hard to see why the governor and General Assembly should be,” said Rob Godfrey, Haley’s spokesman.
Haley implied in the Sons of Confederate Veterans interview that she would work with the NAACP and others who want the flag removed from the State House grounds to address the NAACP boycott. “I’m the perfect person to deal with the boycott. Because, as a minority female, I’m going to go and talk to them and I’m going to go and let them know that every state has their traditions. … But we need to talk about business. And we need to talk about having (businesses) come into our state …”
As you see, Vincent understands that the time must come when we stop portraying our state to the world as a haven for neo-Confederate extremists who insist upon continuing to embrace the worst moments of our history. He’s just too diplomatic to put it in quite those terms. If he had the chance, he’d get it down. By the way, his Uncle Bob, the former speaker, had the best idea of all about what to do about the flag: Replace it with a bronze plaque noting that it once flew here. That’s a solution that would enable us to move on. But the GOP leadership refused to seriously consider that or any other reasonable solution on the ONE DAY they allowed for debate before rushing to embrace this “compromise” that settled nothing.
Nikki, however, promises not to touch it, which is the standard South Carolina Republican response. And now that she’s promised it to the Sons of Confederate Veterans, that’s that. Which is a real shame, given that since she wasn’t in the Legislature at the time, no one could legitimately pretend that she is in any way bound by the “compromise” of 2000. She wasn’t a party to it.
She’s come a long way from being the inspiring emblem for tolerance that she truly was when she ran in 2004, when I took up the cudgels for her against the forces of ugly nativism. I’d like to see the national media folks who are SO EXCITED, in their superficial way, that an Indian-American woman might be elected in South Carolina take a moment to consider this. They also might want to watch her cozying up to the neo-Confederates in these video clips. Just something that should go into the calculation…
Note also the HUGE difference in their understanding of the impact of the flag on economic development. Vincent understands that if we want the rest of the world to take us seriously, the flag needs to come down. Nikki thinks the only obstacle to economic development here is the rather sad, ineffective boycott by the NAACP, which is weird on several levels.