More confederate flag

Really enjoyed this Big Steve post pushing back at the idea that taking down the flag doesn’t really matter:

It is just a symbol, they say.  This is not real change.  Well, if it is so trivial why do people think it is so important?  Politics is just like symbols–intersubjective.  That is, we as a society give meaning to stuff, and that meaning resonates.  It shapes perceptions of what is permissible, what is impermissible.  Tomorrow, African Americans will still be overrepresented in our prisons, and more African American men will be killed by cops in the days and months ahead.  Taking down the flag does not remove guns from any racist, nor is Walmart ceasing to sell guns.

BUT this really is a learning moment–that norms of society are shifting, recognizing that racism still exists in a big way, that a key symbol of racism is not to be tolerated, that the myths about the Civil War are to be busted again and again until people get it.  This will not eliminate racism nor the racists, but it is creating political mobilization and not just among the haters who have been mobilized since a multiracial man with a foreign name became President.

While we can debate how much progress has or has not been made and what needs to be done next, removing the symbols of hate helps remove the signal sent that it is ok to discriminate, that it is ok to exclude, that it is ok to hate openly.

And, as long as I’m following up on the flag, enjoyed Hans Noel’s policy take:

I don’t know if the flag’s removal is the best response to the Charleston attacks, but it’s not at all surprising. It’s a perfect illustration of the way policy agendas shape policy change, a model we can trace to John Kingdon, with significant contributions from Frank Baumgartner and Bryan Jones, among others.

The idea is that policy ideas are almost always solutions in search of a problem. Or rather, they are solutions to a different long-standing problem. This policy stream is nurtured by activists who want to see it enacted, and then an event happens which creates the opportunity to do something, and the activists convince policymakers that their solution is that something. [emphasis in original] …

Once you recognize that most policy changes are the result of activists capitalizing on events, it’s hard to view any one example as a bad thing. If you think the flag shouldn’t fly, then you should take the victory when you can get it.

Also, two really good takes on the politics of why this is all-of-a-sudden so possible.  Joseph Lowndes:

However, growing Republican opposition to the Confederate flag is less evidence that the southern strategy has been rejected than that it has fully succeeded. Republicans no longer needs to court white southerners through overt racism because they have already been largely absorbed into the Republican coalition.

At the same time, the GOP continues to pursue policies  on voter ID laws, affirmative action, and social and economic policies that fall hardest on the majority of African Americans. The GOP can pursue these ends without invoking symbols like the confederate flag.

And a nice analysis from Sean Trende:

n other words, until fairly recently, poor rural whites were the key to winning in the South. So the parties competed over them, and very little happened with the flag. But in the past few years – and generational replacement is playing a part here as well – the South has become increasingly polarized, along with the rest of the country. Rural whites have begun voting Republican from the top of the ticket to the bottom, and Democrats have either written off the region or looked to form coalitions of minorities, urban liberals and suburbanites rather than of minorities, urban liberals and poor whites.

Because Democrats no longer see any electoral payoff in talking to guys with Confederate flags in the back of their pickup trucks, they no longer have any incentive to make even weak gestures toward keeping the flag around. Progressives are freed from their need to keep up their awkward dance with rural Southerners for the sake of maintaining some degree of power in the South (a dance that dates back at least to FDR’s reluctance to endorse anti-lynching laws). Polarization has forced them – and freed them – to explore new paths to power…

but for the most part, I don’t think most Republicans in leadership positions ever had much use for the Confederate flag beyond political calculations.  With rural whites now largely polarized into the Republican column, Southern Republicans no longer have to go hard after their votes.  If anything, they need to watch their flanks in the suburbs and in the business wing of the party, and so it is now more natural for them to move against the flag.

Polarization has, generally speaking, made lawmaking more difficult on the national level. But this, at least, is one instance where it has probably greased the skids.

I’ll admit to being entirely surprised at just how rapidly and completely this change seems to have taken place, but these last three links go a long way, I think, to explaining just how this has happened.  I suspect I’ll be using examples of this rapid shift in my classes for years to come.

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