Confederate Flag Issue Making a Comeback in South Carolina Special Election

One candidate for Congress is counting on continued resentment of South Carolina’s removal of the Confederal Battle Flag from the Statehouse grounds in 2015. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

When the South Carolina legislature, at the urging of Governor Nikki Haley, voted to remove the Confederate Battle Flag from a memorial on the Statehouse grounds in the summer of 2015, there was a general sense the issue (which has popped up in all the former Confederate states at different times involving different types of flag displays) had finally been buried, even in the first state to secede from the Union in 1860. Haley basked in national praise for her role in the Palmetto State’s action, even though (a) public opinion on the topic shifted after Dylan Roof’s racist rampage in Charleston, which occurred just weeks earlier, (b) the state was looking down the barrel of an economic boycott if it persisted in flying the rebel flag, and (c) more truly courageous southern pols had acted on this issue much earlier (including Haley’s Republican predecessor David Beasley, back in the 1990s).

But there was an undertone of resentment of Haley for caving to the p.c. police, which political observers in South Carolina noted during the 2016 presidential primary campaign in the state, notably among Trump supporters (Haley backed Marco Rubio). One poll shortly before that primary showed 54 percent of South Carolina Republicans (and 70 percent of Trump supporters) still favored flying the flag on the Statehouse grounds.

So when Republican congressional candidate Sheri Few injected the flag issue into the fifth district special election to replace OMB director Mick Mulvaney, she had reason to believe it might be a shrewd move for a less prominent contender in a low-turnout primary election with a large field. Her online ad attacking two opponents who voted with Haley on taking down the flag in the legislature is drawing a lot of attention:

And there’s not much doubt she is targeting those Trump voters who resented the “politically correct” action at the time. Here’s her rap to the media:

“It’s erasing not only Southern heritage, but American history. That’s what communist dictators do,” said Few, who has made her campaign slogan “Make America America Again.”

Few is a culture warrior who lost a 2014 primary to become state school superintendent on a shrill anti–Common Core platform. Thanks to the name ID she won in that race, she’s got a foundation to compete in this special primary. In one of just two public polls in the race, released by Few’s own campaign, she was running a close third behind both the candidates she attacked in the flag ad, with a huge undecided vote. South Carolina requires a majority for party nominations, so if Few can make it into the top two on May 2 she might have a chance in a May 16 runoff. She could be the one candidate whose nomination might give Democrats a remote chance in the June 20 general election in this solidly Republican district (Trump won here 57/38 last November).

Confederate Flag an Issue in South Carolina Special Election