A bipartisan trio of Southern governors – Virginia’s Terry McAuliffe (D), Tennessee’s Bill Haslam (R), and North Carolina’s Pat McCrory (R) – all made similar announcements yesterday, moving their respective states away from official Confederate license plates. Georgia’s Nathan Deal (R) took a different course – at first.
Midday yesterday, the Peach State’s Republican governor acknowledged the growing trend away from Confederate symbols, but he nevertheless announced his continued support for state-sponsored license plates featuring the Confederate flag emblem. As the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported, Deal told reporters, “I was asked this question during the campaign, as was my opponent. Both of us said we didn’t have a problem with the license plate. And my position hasn’t changed.”
Soon after, he position changed.
Gov. Nathan Deal said Tuesday he wants a redesign of a state-sponsored license plate featuring the Confederate flag emblem, as a growing list of other Southern governors call for similar changes.The Republican stopped short of calling for the Sons of Confederate Veterans tags to be phased out or eliminated entirely, as the leaders in North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee announced Tuesday. He said the redesign, though, would seek to eliminate the bigger visage of the flag that covers the background of the entire tag. The change, he added, wouldn’t require legislative action.
“It’s time we take a further look at it,” the GOP governor told reporters.
While Deal’s change of heart came as a surprise, what’s especially striking is the speed with which he changed direction. The governor’s position was unambiguous fairly late in the afternoon: “I don’t think that it is something that we should be that concerned about.” Very quickly thereafter, it was something Deal was quite concerned about.
How quickly? I’m glad you asked.
Looking at the Twitter feed for the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Greg Bluestein, he posted at 3:34 pm (ET) that Deal had decided to stand by Georgia’s Confederate license plates.
Bluestein tweeted again at 4:06 p.m. (ET) – just 32 minutes later – that the Georgia governor had called the reporter back into his office to say he now supports a redesign of the state’s Confederate license plate.
There’s nothing wrong with policymakers evolving on a contentious issue, but politicians usually need more than a half-hour to execute a reversal like this.
Deal’s turnaround, however, is emblematic of just how quickly the political conditions are changing. A week ago at this time, it was nearly impossible to imagine just how radioactive the racially charged symbols would become, and yet, here we are.