On Thursday, The View co-host Sunny Hostin declared that former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. and former Gov. Nikki Haley (R-S.C.) should be disqualified from running for national office because of comments she made recently about respecting people who revere the Confederate flag.
“I actually think that it’s disqualifying for her to run for national office now that she’s made this statement. It is completely disqualifying,” Hostin said.
In an interview teased last week, Haley defended the people of South Carolina who consider the Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia (often referred to as “the Confederate flag”) to be a symbol of “service, sacrifice, and heritage.” In a Washington Post op-ed, she clarified that while this is not her view of the flag, she respects the many Southerners who disagree.
“Everyone knows the flag has always been a symbol of slavery, discrimination and hate for many people. But not everyone sees the flag that way. That’s hard for non-Southerners to understand, but it’s a fact,” Haley wrote. She also noted that “today’s outrage culture” would prefer to either deny the existence of the southerners who support the Confederate flag — or to demonize them. These people “do not see the Confederate battle flag in racial terms. While I don’t agree with their view of the flag, I respect them.”
While Haley did not mention Hillary Clinton’s infamous “deplorables” smear, she warned that many on the left would demonize supporters of the Confederate flag. “Today’s outrage culture insists that everyone who holds a view that’s different from our own is not just mistaken. They must be evil and shunned. That’s wrong. I know too many good people in South Carolina who think differently about the flag but who are not the least bit racist,” she wrote.
Hostin attacked this op-ed, essentially proving Haley’s point.
“And in that op-ed that she wrote to try to clean up what she said on air, she’s saying now that it’s because of outrage culture that you could never now remove the flag from the South Carolina Capitol,” Hostin said. “She’s now trying to diminish the very oppression of my community of my ancestors by calling it ‘outrage.'”
“Well, I am outraged by that position,” the View co-host declared, to loud applause.
Hostin recalled that South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union, and since there was no secession clause in the Constitution, Abraham Lincoln characterized the secession as insurrection and rebellion.
The View co-host said South Carolina “became the first state to commit treason by officially declaring that its citizens didn’t want to be part of the United States if it meant they couldn’t treat black people as property.”
Hostin cited the South Carolina declaration, noting that “nowhere in that declaration did they mention sacrifice, did they mention heritage. Slavery was mentioned 18 times in that declaration — 18 times!”
“For her to somehow say that people think that the Confederate flag is about service and it’s about heritage — it is about slavery. It is about the oppression of black people, nothing more. And she knows that. She should never run for national office,” the co-host concluded.
In historical terms, Hostin is correct. In fact, she undersold her case. South Carolina and the other southern states did not secede to protect slavery from imminent abolition — Lincoln did not support abolition — they seceded after fighting to expand slavery into new states and federal territories. Lincoln opposed this expansion, and — much like abortion zealots today — southerners could not stomach limits on the expansion of their odious, racist institution, which they increasingly defended as a “positive good.”
But Nikki Haley was not defending the Confederate flag or the expansion of slavery for which it stood. She was defending the good people in modern South Carolina for whom the flag means something different. To millions of southerners who are not racist, the flag is a symbol of heritage and sacrifice — perhaps evoking the brave men who fought and died for their families and their states more than for the institution of slavery. While the leaders of the Confederacy were focused on slavery, the soldiers who bled and died often fought for God and family.
While some of the reverence for the Confederate flag and Confederate monuments traces to a false “Lost Cause” view of history that valorizes the Confederacy, for most southerners today the Confederate flag is more a symbol of southern heritage than a symbol of racism or oppression. In fact, many black Americans have opposed the removal of Confederate flags and monuments.
This is a complex issue, and Nikki Haley is right not to demonize the millions of southerners who fly the Confederate flag with no racist intentions. Hostin is right about the history, but that does not mean that it is right or good to demonize the millions who see nobility in a flag that once represented evil and oppression. Americans should have the civility to respect one another, even when one side is clearly wrong about history.
Sadly, the outrage culture Haley lamented was on full display on The View, and it is not likely to subside anytime soon.
NIKKI HALEY EXPLAINS CONFEDERATE FLAG COMMENTS: We discuss her slamming “outrage culture” in response to criticism of her comments saying the flag had meant “sacrifice and heritage” until its ideals were “hijacked” by the 2015 Charleston church shooter. https://t.co/uLsbjUa2Af pic.twitter.com/2vwcFYLpj8
— The View (@TheView) December 12, 2019
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.