Gov. Nikki Haley called for South Carolina to remove the Confederate flag from the grounds of its statehouse in the wake of a shooting apparently motivated by white supremacy that killed nine people in Charleston. Now other political leaders are following in her footsteps, trying to get rid of the most visible, official-seeming Confederate symbols in their states.
In one sense, it's taken a long time to get to this point: The Civil War ended 150 years ago. But it can also seem like things have happened fast since Haley's announcement Monday. The NAACP and other groups have fought for decades to get the Confederate flags down. And suddenly, politicians are changing their minds in a matter of minutes.
Alabama has taken down its Confederate flags at the Capitol
Gov. Robert Bentley, a Republican, took down all four Confederate flags on the state Capitol grounds this morning, saying it was "the right thing to do" in part because the flags could become a "distraction." "I have taxes to raise, we have work to do," he told AL.com. "And it was my decision that the flag needed to come down."
The flags were part of the Confederate memorial on the statehouse grounds — a memorial whose cornerstone was laid by Jefferson Davis, the former president of the Confederacy, in 1880.
Prominent Mississippi Republicans are calling for changing the state flag
Mississippi is the only state that has the full Confederate battle flag as part of its state flag design, and some Republicans in the state are saying it's time to change it. Sen. Roger Wicker, a Republican, has joined them, saying the "state flag should be put in a museum and replaced by one that is more unifying to all Mississippians." But he's going to keep the Mississippi state flag outside his Senate office for now, he told Politico. Sen. Thad Cochran said he hopes the state will consider changing the flag.
Mississippi's governor, Phil Bryant, is less enthusiastic. "Mississippians have already had a discussion about the state flag. It was put to a vote, and an overwhelming majority chose to keep the flag. Mississippians have the right to revisit that decision either through their elected representatives in the Legislature or through the initiative process. As governor, I will continue to focus on job creation, education and public safety—priority issues for Mississippians," he said in a statement.
A separate, but related, issue is what to do about the Mississippi flags at the US Capitol. Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, wants a vote on taking down the flag from the tunnel that connects the Capitol to adjoining office buildings.
The latest on how South Carolina lawmakers will vote
Taking down the Confederate flag at South Carolina's Capitol requires a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate. Right now, 72 percent of Senate members say they'll vote to take it down, according to the Post and Courier's continually updating poll. But just 52 percent of the House have said they're in favor. The rest have said they're not or are dodging inquiries from the Charleston newspaper.
Nine states have Confederate flag license plates — but in at least five, that might not last
Georgia: Gov. Nathan Deal said Tuesday morning that he didn't have a problem with the state's Sons of Confederate Veterans plate featuring the battle flag. Half an hour later, he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution he'd changed his mind and it was time to redesign the plate so that it no longer features the Confederate flag as a background.
But he doesn't want to get rid of the plates entirely, and he's recently said that he considers the state's flag — inspired by the Confederacy's first official flag — a settled issue.
North Carolina: Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, asked the legislature to pass a law getting rid of the Confederate flag on the state's Sons of Confederate Veterans license plates, according to the Associated Press. The House minority leader was game but doesn't think that's enough: "The issue that is killing people in North Carolina is guns, not license plates," Larry Hall, a Democrat, said.
Maryland: Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, is "against" the use of the Confederate flag on license plates, but it's not yet clear what he's going to do about it, the Baltimore Sun reports. (Maryland is the only state in this roundup that was never part of the Confederacy in the first place.)
Tennessee: Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, says he supports taking the flag off license plates, which will require action from the state legislature.
Virginia: Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, was the first to say he wants to get rid of the Confederate flag plates now that a Supreme Court decision allows states to refuse the Sons of Confederate Veterans' designs. He's planning to replace plates already in circulation.
If you're counting, that leaves Confederate flag plates untouched in South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana. South Carolina's legislature is focusing on the flag. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who announced his presidential run today, suggested he's fine with Louisiana continuing to issue the license plates.