South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley appeared on Meet the PressSunday to discuss a range of issues, but also to bask in the warm glow of a mainstream media that has positioned her as the courageous champion who vanquished the Confederate flag from the state capitol. Along with this narrative goes the idea that Haley represents some sort of “new face” of the Republican Party that, I guess, has caught all the way up with 1965.
An exemplar of this was MTP host Chuck Todd’s introduction of Governor Haley, in which he called her “instrumental in removing the flag,” and his assertions that, as a result, her “national star is rising,” and that the move gave her party a chance at “making inroads with another minority group — African-Americans.”
Todd is correct that this is the way the mainstream media views the events of the past week, but that view is based on lies. Chuck Todd, and everyone else in the overwhelmingly white mainstream media, seems to have forgotten the utter cowardice Haley displayed when first asked about removing the Confederate flag, the flying of which she had previously defended. Not only did she refuse to take a position, she also told the same lie that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and others told that day, that the decision to fly the flag was something everyone had agreed to:
“The Republicans and Democrats and everybody came together on a consensus to bring the Confederate flag down off of the dome. And they put it on a monument out in front. I think that conversation will probably come back up again. And you what we hope that we do things the way South Carolinians do. Which is have the conversation, allow some thoughtful words to be exchanged, be kind about it. Come together on what we’re trying to achieve and how we’re trying to do it. I think the state will start talking about that again. We’ll see where it goes…”
But what’s your position on the issue?
“You know, right now, to start having policy conversations with the people of South Carolina, I understand that’s what ya’ll want, my job is to heal the people of this state… There will be policy discussions and you will hear my come out and talk about it.But right now, I’m not doing that to the people of my state.“
Of course, that “agreement” was only a compromise in that, like the “3/5 compromise,” it was the most that white people were willing to do. The black caucus in South Carolina voted against it, and the NAACP instituted a boycott that lasted until this past weekend. And just what did Haley mean that she wouldn’t “be doing that” to the people of South Carolina? Exactly which people would be traumatized by their governor taking a position on the removal of that flag?
Keep in mind that this was two days after the shooting, and one day after her emotional first words about the Charleston massacre, yet Governor Haley still couldn’t state her position on the Confederate flag, and for all we know, that position was still what it had been a few months earlier, when she defended it:
“What I can tell you is over the last three and a half years, I spent a lot of my days on the phones with CEOs and recruiting jobs to this state. I can honestly say I have not had one conversation with a single CEO about the Confederate flag.”
That previous stance might explain what happened next, because on Monday, June 22, five days after the shooting, Governor Haley decided it was time to “do that to her state” after all, and urge the flag’s removal:
So what happened between that Friday and that Monday to change Haley’s mind? Certainly nothing that she said in her remarks about bringing the flag down, or in her previous refusal to comment. The wound was still as fresh on June 22 as it had been on the 19th, but in those intervening days, Governor Haley was presented with mounting public opinion, and a recent record of corporations wreaking havoc with states that erred on civil rights-related issues. Whether she received any CEO phone calls, or just saw the bold writing on the wall, it had to occur to Haley that keeping the flag wold be bad for business. Her state was 150 years late to the party, and she was five more days late.
If you need further evidence that this was a political and economic calculation, rather than a soul-altering epiphany, consider the balance of Governor Haley’s Meet the Press interview. Asked to weigh in on Donald Trump’s racist ramblings of the past few weeks, Haley would only gently chide The Donald over his “tone,” while actually agreeing with him on the substance:
“I understand his frustration. The frustration that he has about illegal immigration a lot of people have. The difference is we need to be very conscious of our tone. We need to be very conscious of how we communicate. There are a lot of legal immigrants that have made this country the place it is today.”
Haley was also asked if the Charleston massacre had any effect on her view of the late Pastor Clementa Pinckney’s signature issue, voting rights. Short answer: nope.
“You know, the flag coming down was a moment that I felt like needed to happen. That doesn’t mean that I philosophically changed the way I think about other things. I’ve never seen the voter ID as a racial issue, for whites, for blacks, for Asians, for anyone.”
So, the racist, terrorist murder of nine of her fellow citizens spurred Haley to remove the Confederate flag 150 years after they lost their war of treason, but not to even remotely consider the views of those who were killed a few weeks ago re-fighting it. Not a second’s pause.
At least Governor Haley had the sense not to openly glory in the political media’s blind infatuation, concluding the interview with a deft response to the suggestion that her political star is on the rise thanks to this tragedy:
It certainly is. To cast as a hero someone who gave political cover to the Confederate flag scant months ago, and refused to denounce it days after nine black parishioners were murdered in its name, is more than an insult. It is adding injury to injury.