State & Local Politics

The Confederate flag comes down, the Gadsden flag goes up

Confederate Flag, MoveOn, Charleston, Take down the flag
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Random acts, lone gunmen, half-mad political agents like John Brown, do indeed have the ability to awaken the world. They go where others fear to tread — deep into the dark reaches of the unconscious, and out they come with fire and a sword.

But this will not be like that. Dylann Roof begins nothing. If anything, he marks a final footnote to that which began in 1831, when William Lloyd Garrison brought forth the first issues of The Liberator with its slogan just beneath the headline: “Our country is the world. Our countrymen are mankind.” And so they would be.

{mosads}And it is not surprising that it ends in final tragedy where it began, in Charleston, S.C. But there is irony here that when the Confederate flag comes down for the last time, it will be taken down by Gov. Nikki Haley (R), whose family, with parents originally from India, would have been driven out of town a very short time ago. And a very good governor at that, who will be looked at as vice presidential choice in 2016.

“New South meets Old South,” they have been saying since Haley was born there in 1972. No more, because as of today, there is no Old South.

Again, Mitt Romney proved himself to be Alpha Dog. When he tweeted “Take down the #ConfederateFlag at the SC Capitol,” it was a done deal. Everyone in the conservative lineup to 2016 followed, some equivocating, casting themselves as quislings and accommodators and ending their ride to the future. Conservatives should look to this as a defining moment. To repeat: Romney is Alpha Dog. Romney/Haley 2016?

But is this really the end of the Confederate South? If the others missed it, Romney will have noticed. They pulled the Confederate flags from Lee Chapel at Washington and Lee University — some would call it a shrine — where Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee (and his horse Traveller) is buried. There was barely a whisper of complaint in the dead-center jewel heart of the Old Dominion.

Now that it is past, the Civil War has clarified things. Was the Civil War about slavery or about states’ rights, as the tormentors ask still? On every level of engagement, it was a moral initiative against slavery initiated not by constitutional lawyers but by northern preachers. The states’ rights issue only works to further obfuscate; it is vengeance, in hindsight.

It might be said that the Civil War liberated the 10th Amendment to be moderator of a free and just society as it was originally intended it to be, by removing the aberration of slavery; anomalous, impossible, in a free society. The 10th Amendment, which moderates power of Washington over the states, brings one of the rising issues of the day and may even be seen to be one of the defining issue of the rising century in America.

It even has a flag; the Gadsden flag, a Revolution-era icon symbolized by a coiled rattlesnake which appeared again with the rise of the Tea Party. It flies everywhere here in the northern hills of Emerson’s New England. A version of it can even be glimpsed hanging in the hall of the clubhouse in “Sons of Anarchy,” which takes its anthem not from Confederate President Jefferson Davis, but from anarchist leader Emma Goldman. As the one age ends with the final fall of the Confederacy, so opens a much broader contention now about America’s future, which runs from coast to coast. States’ rights is central to this new formulation.

Today, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) leads a coalition of up to 26 states challenging Obama on immigration. The Hill reports that state legislators around the country have introduced more than 200 bills aiming to nullify regulations and laws coming out of Washington as they look to rein in the federal government.

This is the way of history; things don’t end when the fire goes out. They morph into something else. And as the one flag comes down, another goes up.

Quigley is a prize-winning writer who has worked more than 35 years as a book and magazine editor, political commentator and reviewer. For 20 years he has been an amateur farmer, raising Tunis sheep and organic vegetables. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife and four children. Contact him at

Tags Charleston Confederacy Confederate flag Dylann Roof Gadsden flag Mitt Romney Nikki Haley South Carolina States' rights

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