After over ten hours of contentious debate, the South Carolina House voted overwhelmingly to remove the Confederate flag from the statehouse grounds. The final vote was 94-20 for removal and it came at 1:11 a.m. on Thursday morning. It in a written statement, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (R) hailed the dawning of:
a new day in South Carolina, a day we can all be proud of, a day that truly brings us all together as we continue to heal, as one people and one state.
The decisive House vote followed an even more lopsided 37-3 Senate vote for bringing down the flag. The long debate on the House floor over a series of amendments was long and contentious, but a powerful emotional plea from Republican Representative Jenny Horne seemed to seal the Confederate flag’s fate.
Horne made a passionate case for “immediate and swift removal” of the flag which drew a standing ovation from many of her fellow lawmakers. She rebuked the heritage argument by stating:
I have heard enough about heritage. I have a heritage. I am a life-long South Carolinian. I am a descendant of Jefferson Davis, okay? But that does not matter. It’s not about Jenny Horne. It’s about the people of South Carolina who have demanded that this symbol of hate come off of the statehouse grounds.
Tearfully she implored the legislature to take immediate action, adding:
I cannot believe that we do not have the heart in this body to do something meaningful, such as take a symbol of hate off these grounds on Friday. If we amend this bill, we are telling the people of Charleston, ‘We don’t care about you. We do not care that somebody used this symbol of hate to slay (nine) innocent people who were worshiping their God.
Moments later the South Carolina legislature proved that they did in fact have the heart to do something meaningful, by voting to take down the flag. While bringing down the Confederate flag is largely a symbolic gesture, it is a very important one. For a century and a half, many white Southerners have vehemently defended the flag as a symbol of heritage, while trying to downplay the hate that was part of that heritage.
In the wee hours of Thursday morning, a conservative lawmaker who is a descendant of Jefferson Davis would not defend that symbol for another day, nor would 93 of her state house colleagues. The decision was made long before sunrise, but as South Carolina awoke on Thursday morning, Governor Nikki Haley was right. A new day was dawning in South Carolina.