I mentioned earlier today that Jeb Bush has called for South Carolina to take down the Confederate flag that flies on the Capitol grounds. I see that Sen. Ted Cruz, another GOP 2016 presidential contender, is taking a different approach. The Washington Post reports:
Sen. Ted Cruz says whether or not South Carolina removes the Confederate flag from a state house memorial is an issue for the state to decide and that he sees “both sides” of the debate.
In an interview with The Washington Post on Saturday, Cruz (R-Tex.) said that he understands why people equate the flag with both racial oppression and historical traditions.
“I understand the passions that this debate evokes on both sides,” the GOP presidential hopeful said. “Both those who see a history of racial oppression and a history of slavery, which is the original sin of our nation, and we fought a bloody civil war to expunge that sin.”
He added: “But I also understand those who want to remember the sacrifices of their ancestors and the traditions of their states, not the racial oppression, but the historical traditions, and I think often this issue is used as a wedge to try to divide people.”
Cruz is right about one thing: the Confederate flag is indeed a wedge issue in the Republican party in 2015.
It seems worth noting that alleged neo-Confederate terrorist Dylann Storm Roof was himself engaging in “historical traditions,” of a deeply ugly sort — the murderous guerrilla warfare fought against black people by various terrorist groups and individuals across the South during and after Reconstruction, and well into the twentieth century. Indeed, Roof’s project was precisely to live by the ideals of the Confederacy. Perhaps Cruz might ponder whether these traditions themselves are divisive. He might ponder whether there are traditions that we are now called to renounce. This is precisely what those asking that the flag be put in a museum rather than flown at the Capitol are arguing for: a public choice to no longer honor traditions and ideologies that are deeply immoral.
It is no surprise, given the traditions which Roof sought to uphold, which flag he chose to fly.
UPDATE: Scott Walker has also declined to take a position: “The placement of a Confederate flag on the Capitol grounds is a state issue.”
Marco Rubio also going with the state-issue approach: “This is an issue that they should debate and work through and not have a bunch of outsiders going in and telling them what to do.”