A decade after striking the compromise that removed the Confederate battle flag from the State House dome, South Carolina political leaders said they have no interest in revisiting the debate despite lingering objections to its display.
Thursday marks 10 years since the flag was moved from the dome and raised next to a Civil War soldier monument in a plaza on the north side of the State House. The flag has long been a flashpoint in state politics, dividing those who see it as a symbol of state history, culture and heritage and those who view it as a symbol of a slave-owning, racist past.
Some flag supporters and Southern-heritage groups think the flag should never have been removed, and have called on the Legislature to let state residents vote on where the flag is flown. The decision to allow the flag to remain flying on State House grounds sparked the NAACP to call for a state tourism boycott. It has been in effect for a decade.
The flag question becomes a political pitfall every four years for every Republican and Democratic presidential candidate during the state’s key early primaries. Anger about the flag was also a factor in former Gov. David Beasley's re-election loss in 1998 after the Republican proposed removing the flag from the dome.
But many of the lawmakers who brokered the compromise think it has served the state well, preventing the flag debate from smoldering while other issues were ignored.
"The mainstream of South Carolina on all sides has embraced it," said Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston, one of the strongest supporters of preserving the state's Civil War history. Allowing the debate to resurface again and again "would not have been good for the long-term health of the state."
Rep. David Weeks, D-Sumter and chairman of the S.C. Black Caucus, said compromise, by definition, will leave some people unhappy.
Though lawmakers have introduced bills nearly every year that would remove the flag, Weeks said the debate seldom gets any further because of more pressing issues.
"They want the flag removed," Weeks said of voters he has spoken with. "But the flag is a much lesser concern than trying to get people back to work."
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