A Bonehead Move by Republicans on the Confederate Flag [Updated]

Today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune features this headline: Rep. McCollum: “Hell no” to GOP backing of Confederate flag at national parks. No, I thought, that can’t possibly be right. But it was:

Republicans on Thursday yanked an Interior Department spending bill off the floor after last-minute Confederate flag amendments threatened to blow it up — to the outrage of Rep. Betty McCollum, the highest-ranking Democrat on the committee.

McCollum, who represents St. Paul, said that her “no” vote on the Interior spending bill, which she says “panders to polluters”, shifted to “hell no” after Republicans late Wednesday offered up amendments to allow the Confederate flag be flown in national parks.

Why in the world would Republicans propose such amendments? The Strib offers an explanation of sorts:

The Obama administration currently prohibits the sale or display of the Confederate flags on National Park properties, except when displayed in a historical context.

That prohibition is obviously unconstitutional, I think. But who cares? When was the last time you saw a Confederate flag in a national park, other than a Civil War battlefield? Unbeknownst to me, have there been Confederate flag stands operating at Yellowstone? I don’t think so. But what motive do Republicans have to open up the parks to Confederate flags? It merely creates opportunities for this:

“Last night, when Republican leadership put forward a last-minute amendment that would allow for the display and sale of confederate flags in the national parks … which invokes memories of racism and a painful period in our country’s past, I found myself shocked, outraged and disappointed,” [McCollum] said, in a speech on the House floor. “The people in Minnesota sent me here to strive for what they strive for every day: to build a better, stronger America.”

Keith Ellison weighed in against the Republican amendments, too, calling the Confederate flag a symbol of racism.

This is crazy. All Confederates were Democrats. The Southern states seceded because a Republican had been elected president, and Republicans led the effort that defeated the Confederacy and abolished slavery. Yet, through sheer stupidity, as best I can tell, Republicans in Congress are on the verge of making the GOP, in the public’s eyes, the party of the Confederacy and slavery.

The Strib story ends with an apology by Republican Congressman Ken Calvert:

California Republican Rep. Ken Calvert, who pushed the amendment earlier this week, issued a statement Thursday: “Looking back, I regret not conferring with my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, especially my Ranking member Betty McCollum, prior to offering the leadership’s amendment and fully explaining its intent given the strong feelings members of the House feel regarding this important and sensitive issue.”

Better Calvert should apologize to his fellow Republicans for a self-inflicted wound to his own party.

UPDATE: The party of slavery and Jim Crow wasted no time in pouncing on the Republicans’ blunder. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent out this email a little while ago:

Late last night, House Republicans rallied to keep the Confederate Flag flying in our national parks. It’s beyond outrageous.

We need 100,000 Democrats to denounce these House Republicans defending the Confederate Flag. Will you sign on?

Sadly, there is a lot of truth to the conventional view that Democrats are evil, and Republicans are stupid. Could our elected representatives in Congress seriously not see this coming? If so, we need to elect someone else. Someone smarter.