Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Nikki Haley Gets Deja Vu All Over Again

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on October 2, 2014

As Kevin notes over at Civil War Memory, the Democratic nominee for governor in South Carolina has formally come out in favor of removing the Confederate Battle Flag from the grounds of the State House in Columbia. Kevin argues that while Vincent Sheheen may not win — he currently trails in the polls — what matters is that it’s right out front as part of his platform. “That a candidate for one of the two major parties (and for whatever reason) is campaigning on this issue,” he write, “suggests that we have reached a threshold among South Carolina voters when it comes to this divisive subject.”

HaleyTrue enough. What interests me is seeing how this plays out politically — not for Sheheen, but for incumbent Republican Governor Nikki Haley. Vincent Sheheen isn’t going to lose votes over his stance on this issue, and he might pick up some. It’s a whole different proposition for Haley, though. Her campaign staff responded quickly to Sheheen’s announcement, arguing that he had never taken a stance against the CBF before, during more than a decade in state politics. Fair enough, but beyond the back-and-forth of winning the 24-hour news cycle, this presents a bigger problem for Haley campaign. Part of Haley’s success has been that she herself stands out against the backdrop of top-tier Republican elected officials, especially in the South (right). Though her policies are reliably conservative, at least superficially she presents a different sort of image — female, youthful, the daughter of immigrants, and so on. The GOP has been working very hard lately to show that they’re not all old white guys, even if they can’t find any actual Republicans to appear in ads touting the party’s diversity.

So far, so good. But by making removal of the CBF an explicit, up-front part of the campaign, Sheheen is making sure that Haley will almost certainly have to make her own position clearly known. And there’s her predicament.

She can (1) come down strong in favor of keeping the flag where it is, and open herself up to criticism that she’s no different than any other unreconstructed Confederate apologist. She can (2) agree with the removal of the flag, and incur the wrath of the actual unreconstructed Confederate apologists, who are as thick on the ground as sand fleas in the Palmetto State. Or she can (3) try hard not to say anything at all, and incur the wrath of pretty much everybody. She doesn’t have any good choices here.

I kinda feel sorry for Nikki Haley, who has to feel like this is deja vu all over again. When she ran for governor first time around, she did an interview with a group called the Palmetto Patriots and found herself getting harangued educated on Confederate Heritage™ issues like “Lonnie [Randolph] and his loonies” of the South Carolina NAACP, how the war was caused by Yankee tariffs, and why the Emancipation Proclamation really was a fraud. Seriously:


PP#2: Actually, I just want to throw in something here.  That probably is why the country is in the terrible condition it’s in today.  The Constitution ceased to be enforced, and President Lincoln decided to invade the South.  And until that time, secession was taught everywhere including Annapolis and West Point as being legal.  Had the North not been using very high tariffs to raise money for themselves, at the expense of the agricultural economy of the South, there would have been no war.  The war was not fought to end slavery.  Lincoln said if I had to free one slave to keep the Union together I would fight; if I kept all the slaves in slavery I would fight; if I freed half the slaves and kept the others in slavery I would fight, only to preserve the Union.
He admitted the war was not against slavery.
Of course there would have been no slavery by the time you reached approximately 1890 and there were other agricultural developments that made slavery very, very unprofitable.  It was simply a matter of the Union at that time, Mr. Lincoln’s minority government, trying to do away with the actual meaning of the Constitution that started the war.
Haley: Well I think that for me, you know what I continue to remember is that you know we also know that our creator endowed the rights of everyone having you know, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  And so, when I look at it that way I look at that’s still what needs to be what guides everybody, so that we make sure that we keep those three things in check.
PP#3: If I may inject something here. Are you familiar with the Emancipation Proclamation?
Haley: Yes. (inaudible).
PP#3: OK.  And are you aware of the fact that that’s supposed to be such a great document that it freed the slaves? Close scrutiny of that document shows it only freed the slaves in the states that seceded from the Union.
Haley: Mmm-hmm.


Poor deluded woman, she thought was was running for governor of a state in the twenty-first century.

It’s worth noting that the Palmetto Patriots didn’t ask Haley’s (white, male) competitors for the GOP nomination questions about the Confederacy because “all of them are Southerners whose families go back to beyond the war between the states, back to antebellum times, and they would have a deeper appreciation of Southern thinking and mentality.” Because Robert Barnwell Rhett isn’t available to run for governor, maybe.

Naturally, there were political threats, too:


PP#3: And I’d like to ask you this also. Our groups have been misled before.  Back in the Gov. Beasley days, he fibbed to us.  And quite frankly, while we may not be in the position to elect someone, we do have the power to oust someone.  Mr. Beasley learned that the hard way.
We endorsed Jim Hodges, and he told us at the very beginning; he says, “I don’t care for the flag on the dome, and if the bill comes to my desk I will sign it, however I will not pursue it.”  Right across the table like we’re sitting across from you, that’s what he told us.
It was like probably 30 days after he got in office, he changed his mind.  Of course Mr. Hodges became a one-term governor also.
And we also remember your friend, Mr. Rick Quinn.  He also give us the same line and he went against us, and he was ousted.
So what I think I’m asking you:  If this comes up, and it will come up again we can assure you.  All of us have probably been here maybe longer than you are old.
What kind of pressure would you succumb to if these powers that be start putting pressure on you?  Would you change your mind of what you just stated a few moments ago.
Haley: On the Confederate flag? 
PP#3: Yes.
Haley: No, I would not.
PP#3: Because this was not a compromise that everyone talks about. Our side lost, and we made no reservations about it.  We got a little flag on the State House grounds.  That was not a compromise.  The other side got a big gaudy monument on the State House grounds. They got the flags out of both chambers of the House.  I can’t remember what else there is, anyway.  We lost.
Haley: No, and I’ve been in public for years, that this is something, I mean whether it’s been in debates or anything else, I’ve been very public that this compromise was made, it was settled, and it has been put away.  And that I don’t have any intentions of bringing it back up or making it an issue during my campaign.


“We do have the power to oust someone.  Mr. Beasley learned that the hard way.” Nice political career you got there, lady. It’d be a shame if something was to happen to it.

As far as I know, Governor Haley has managed to avoid controversy regarding the CBF on the State House grounds during her first term. But I don’t see how she avoids the issue now. The media thrives on conflict, and it thrives on disputes over the Confederate flag, especially. (The stories almost write themselves; reporters only need to update the names and places from the one they wrote six months or a year ago.) This story isn’t likely to go away on its own. Not responding doesn’t seem to be a practical option; Governor Haley is going to have to make some hard choices about who she’s willing to infuriate.


Many thanks to Michael Rodgers whose now-defunct blog, Take Down the Flag, provided the transcript of the Haley interview. (For the record, Michael had some very supportive words for Haley at the time.)








15 Responses

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  1. eshonk said, on October 2, 2014 at 7:08 pm

    Actually, Ms. Haley simply has to acknowledge that Confederate History, and all its memorabilia, is part of our collective American History, and no one can change that fact. Our collective American History is full of all kinds of “happenings” that some people are uncomfortable with, but we don’t have the option of ignoring any of our collective history. If we don’t learn from our past, then we are setting ourselves up to endure many of our mistakes again. Those who are “insulted” by Confederate History must make the best of it, since Confederate History isn’t going to disappear, and those whose ancestors supported the Confederacy, are entitled to honor their Confederate Heritage. Here’s a suggestion for those who are “offended” by Confederate History…take the time to research that period in our collective history, and you just might find that the history you were taught is full of flaws i.e. A. Lincoln didn’t “preserve the Union.” In actuality, A. Lincoln and his cronies were the ones who destroyed the original “union by choice,” and replaced it with the “union by force,” with which we live today…something never envisioned by our Founding Fathers.

    • Andy Hall said, on October 2, 2014 at 7:13 pm

      No one denies that Confederate history is part of our collective history.

    • Jimmy Dick said, on October 2, 2014 at 7:33 pm

      Oh so wrong as usual. Lincoln did not start a war. Jefferson Davis did that. Lincoln preserved the Union when forced to by the secessionists who chose to start a war when the people in the South began to ask questions that could not be answered. The Founding Fathers never saw any state leaving the Union. That is why secession was not in the Constitution. They never envisioned any state leaving. Patrick Henry even spoke on it at the Virginia ratification convention. There was no leaving.

      Fast forward to 1861 and some states attempting it. Lincoln did not attack them. He let the situation run its course. Jefferson Davis had two choices. He made a bad choice. He and the other secessionists got over 700,000 men killed and destroyed the South for their own interests, not the interests of their people. So you have the union by choice part wrong. The choice had been made in 1788. The secessionists chose disunion by force…something never envisioned by the Founding Fathers.

      You do not live in a Union by Force. You live in it by your own choice.

      • eshonk said, on October 17, 2014 at 7:14 pm

        LOL. Sounds like you have no clue re: the formation of the United States, it’s federal Constitution, the balance of power between the federal government and the State governments, and the sovereignty of the States via their people. You also have no clue re: the founding principle of the United States, and that people’s God-given right to self-determination is never-ending…eternal…forever. People cannot give away this right, nor can anyone take away this right…it is “of God, not Man.” Secession didn’t have to be discussed in the federal Constitution, since the Revolutionary Generation understood the meaning of “consent of the governed,” and that the people could exercise it whenever they felt it necessary to do so. The Colonies/States had voluntarily ratified the federal Constitution and joined the Union, and could voluntarily leave the Union, if they believed it to be in their best interest. When A. Lincoln chose to ignore the right of Southerners to secede, and refused to negotiate a peaceful agreement with the Confederacy re: the federal property located within the boundaries of the Confederacy, he made the first step toward destroying the original “union by choice.” The final blow to the original “union by choice” was A. Lincoln’s decision to invade the Confederacy, which ultimately resulted in the “union by force” with which we live today. Ask yourself if the United States would be composed of fifty States today, if the Confederacy had won its war for independence from the malfunctioning Union, as a result of the War for Southern Independence. You know the answer is “No.” Without the use of “force of arms,” the Union would be smaller, but would still be a “union by choice,” since those States that no longer wanted to be part of the Union, would have peacefully left the Union. Contrary to your claim, the United States is not a “union by choice,” but it is a “union by force.”

    • John Betts said, on October 4, 2014 at 11:06 am

      She’s running for re-election as governor of South Carolina in the 21st century – not in the 19th. Whether she’s a good governor or not I haven’t a clue since I don’t live in South Carolina, but all of this seems to be bit much. I kind of feel sorry for her and any other candidate being forced to respond to something that shouldn’t be an issue in the first place. None of them will be “Historian-in-Chief” of the state, but instead governor. Let the legislature fight about this if they are so inclined.

  2. OhioGuy said, on October 2, 2014 at 11:54 pm

    Well, Andy, this is not your grandpa’s SC, the Mother of Secession and all. They have one of only two African American senators in Tim Scott. Polls show him leading his Democratic opponent by about a 60-40 margin, about the same margin he won his House seat by two years ago. In a delicious irony his old House district included the location where the old Secession chambers had been located.

    Yes, they do have a dwindling minority of old unreconstructed Dixiecrats who don’t know their history, but they are no longer kingmakers, except in their own warped minds. I had to laugh when they tried to say that the EP only freed slaves in areas in rebellion, because the area from Hilton Head to Beaufort, including Port Royal Sound, had been in Union control since November 1861, and Lincoln did not exempt that area as he did most others under Union control, hence freeimg all slaves in that portion of South Carolina. These idiots don’t even know their own states history. I also love their taking AL out of context quoting only a portion of the Greely letter, which at the end Lincoln says that the earlier statements were his understanding of his legal duties under the Constitution, but that his personal desire was for all men everywhere to be free.

    • Andy Hall said, on October 3, 2014 at 12:41 am

      I haven’t heard if Governor Haley has staked out a position on this — what do you think she’ll do?

      • OhioGuy said, on October 3, 2014 at 10:10 am

        I think she’ll say that she agrees with the compromise reached by an earlier administration to the take the flag off the capitol and put it in the current “historical display.” She’ll acknowledge that the Confederate Era is a part of South Carolina history that needs to be remember. She then may make a statement about how far South Carolina has come since those days and that: “We’ve come from slavery to having an African American U.S. Senator, the first from any southern state since Reconstruction.” She, of course, is responsible for appointing him to the Senate and is working hard for his election this fall. So, far from being a challenge to her, I think this will give her a great platform to promote a part of her agenda. Now, after the election, I’d be happy if she’d make an effort to the replace the CBF with the Bonnie Blue Flag, but I’d be very surprised if she’d say anything of the sort now. Why anger the lunatic fringe now? While they don’t represent that many South Carolina voters, they are very good at getting headlines and making a nuisance of themselves.

      • Ken Noe said, on October 3, 2014 at 11:13 am

        Her campaign office issued a statement supporting the status quo she inherited and added that she won’t reopen the issue unless there’s a bipartisan demand to do so from the legislature. In other words, buck passed, let’s get back to talking about Obama.

        • Andy Hall said, on October 3, 2014 at 3:16 pm

          Thanks for the update.

        • John Betts said, on October 4, 2014 at 11:09 am

          Probably the best response possible. It should come from a bipartisan basis in the legislature and not be a campaign issue for the governor’s race. A silver lining in all of this is perhaps it will be raised in the legislative session and hopefully it can be removed.

      • OhioGuy said, on October 3, 2014 at 4:56 pm

        I posted my guess as to what she might say earlier today. Any reason I was moderated out?

        • Andy Hall said, on October 3, 2014 at 5:18 pm

          You weren’t moderated out, sorry –I got several comments and missed yours, it was still flagged “pending.”

          • OhioGuy said, on October 3, 2014 at 5:26 pm

            Okay, no problem. I will my answer was better than hers, unless she amplifies later on.

  3. jarretr said, on October 4, 2014 at 11:54 am

    At this point, I’ve lost track of just how many “New Souths” have supposedly emerged since 1865. One constant, however, is the ubiquitous role the Rebel flag seems to STILL play in staking a mark on that threshold between “Old” and “New South.” good grief.

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