The legislative sea change on the Confederate flag has become fully evident in The Post and Courier poll results showing sufficient support on the pending vote to furl the flag that now flies on the Statehouse grounds.
More than two-thirds of each chamber have declared their support for removing the flag in the wake of the June 17 murder of nine people at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. Among the victims was state Sen. Clementa Pinckney.
The super-majority is required under the 2000 compromise that moved the Confederate battle flag from the Statehouse dome where it had flown since 1962.
It is reasonable to question whether one legislature can bind another on such a fundamental variation of the “majority rules” foundation of legislative government.
Nevertheless, the flag’s removal needs to have overwhelming support of state legislators to underscore the General Assembly’s unified intent.
So far, all legislators in the tri-county area have declared their support except Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Berkeley, and Rep. Bill Crosby, R-North Charleston, both of whom declined to tell the P&C pollster how they intend to vote.
Across-the-board backing is important in view of the tragic circumstances that sparked the call by Gov. Nikki Haley on June 22 to remove the flag.
The battle flag has long been viewed with reverence by its defenders, who cite the gallantry and sacrifices of South Carolina troops in the Civil War.
But opponents make the point that it also has unsavory associations, such as slavery, secession and legal segregation. Moreover, it has been co-opted by hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan. The man accused in the Emanuel AME murders posted photos on the Internet of himself holding the flag and a handgun.
“Any symbol endorsed by a state should unify her people,” said Rep. Neal Collins, R-Easley, a former flag supporter. “The Confederate battle flag certainly does not. Rather, it divides in unimaginable ways, as evidenced last week. This is why the flag should be removed to a museum.”
So in a commendable spirit of unity, the General Assembly is moving toward a welcome resolution of this painful controversy, possibly next Monday. The votes are there, and every member of the Legislature should be present and accounted for on the flag vote.
Apparently only some ill-considered parliamentary delaying tactic could halt the inevitable.
The state will be watching to see whether its elected officials do the right thing.