Just as it seems that maybe Republicans are poised to make a move on dominant Democrats in the bluest of blues states, they badly fumble an issue that shouldn’t even be an issue in New England. A GOP State Central Committee member decided he would protest the backlash against the Confederate battle flag by flying it at his home where it never flew before. Meanwhile, the new state party chairman awkwardly acknowledges the flag mean different things to different people.
Connecticut Republicans were moving in the direction of loosening the stranglehold Democrats have on elected office in the state, seizing on the mess that is the budget process in Hartford (the governor is desperately trying to keep businesses from leaving the state while legislators try to walk the tightrope on any spending cuts). The GOP also came surprisingly close in several statewide elections in 2015 including the races for the comptroller and treasurer. It now seems that momentum is stalled as they fail to grasp the seriousness of the Confederate battle flag’s symbolism.
State Central Committee member Scott Veley decided he didn’t like the “..Politically Correct absurdity” of the movement to remove the flag from statehouses and capitols in the south. So he thought it would be a good idea to fly the flag at his house, take a picture of it and post it on Facebook. Brilliant plan.
No one questions Veley’s free speech right to be an idiot but the move raises some questions. 1) Why would he put up the flag if he wasn’t flying it in the first place? It seems a big eff-you to people who think the flag is a symbol of oppression and racism. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. 2) Did Veley just happen to have a Confederate battle flag hanging around the garage for just such occasions? If so, that’s troubling on a number of levels.
Meanwhile, new GOP Party Chairman J.R. Romano tried to thread the needle with his response to the issue and ended up shooting himself in the foot (if you’ll excuse the mixed metaphors). Romano, who The Shad wrote seven months ago would be the most effective of those seeking the party chairmanship, told Hearst Connecticut Media that “I fully understand and recognize to some people who are minorities why it might be offensive,” Romano said. “To others, it represents state’s rights.” Bang! Call 911.
The flag is offensive to people, period. One doesn’t have to be a minority to view that flag as racist and a symbol of the worst of this country’s past and emblematic of the still-lingering racism of today. And “state’s rights?”—wow. Those words themselves evokes a reminder of terrible racism.
Importantly, Romano did insinuate that he doesn’t agree with Vesey’s moronic “protest” but felt the need to remind us that “freedom is freedom.”
In the bigger picture, this is the type of thing that sets the Connecticut GOP back after making some gains. If you’re a Republican in the most Democratic state in the country (Massachusetts has a Republican governor), you’d prefer to be talking about how your party almost toppled state Comptroller Kevin Lembo and came even closer to knocking out the nearly incoherent state Treasurer Denise Nappier; not the Confederate Battle Flag of Northern Virginia.
Further, this is a time when Republicans should be pointing out the turmoil and chaos of the state budget process in which majority Democrats have managed to simultaneously entice the largest employers of the state to consider moving to another state while alienating their own base of social services and labor unions.
The governor and Democratic legislative leaders can’t seem to get out of their own way and the state Republicans are arguing about the value of flying the Confederate battle flag out of spite. And so it goes.
UPDATE: Tone-deaf GOP State Party Committee member Scott Veley has removed the offending flag from his home but the damage is done. Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst wants Veley to resign his position with the Republican Party and NAACP-Connecticut President Scott Esdaille says his group prepared to demonstrate in front of Veley’s home.