“Remarkably, the messages, calls and comments I’ve gotten have mostly been more positive than growly,” said Taggart, a longtime Republican political operative and commentator. He added: “I’m not on Facebook, and I’ve been advised (people are) a lot more growly on Facebook.”
In a memo first published Sept. 4 on theconservative political blog Y’all Politics, Taggart said his party, which holds majorities in the Legislative and controls every statewide elected office except one, should “lead the charge to drop the Confederate battle flag from our state flag.”
“This memo is not intended to be a historical overview of the flag, or an indictment of those who prefer the status quo. Instead, it is a call for Mississippi Republicans to lead the way in a change that will make a strong, moral statement that we acknowledge and understand the reasons why our current state flag is divisive and hurtful to a significant number of our fellow Mississippians, and that will proclaim to the nation that the bicentennial Mississippi of 2017 is not the Mississippi of 1965, let alone the Mississippi of 1865 or 1890,” Taggart wrote.
Taggart, the former chief of staff to Gov. Kirk Fordice, the first Republican elected governor in Mississippi following 127 years of rule by Democrats, also picked apart tropes that keeping the flag – and by extension, Confederate monuments – are about Southern heritage and historic preservation.
“The simple fact is that the flag itself is highly polarizing, when the whole purpose of a state flag is to provide a symbol of unity, around which all our state’s citizens should be proud to rally. Arguments that Confederate monuments and the like will be the next to fall if we change the flag don’t wash. The state flag is different from monuments, street names, portraits, headstones and the like, because the state flag is supposed to be a symbol of all Mississippians’ civic identity. Sadly, we just cannot say that it is today,” Taggart said.
Taggart said Republican officials, including the Mississippi Republican State Central Committee, County Executive Committees and other Republican groups should adopt resolutions calling for the removal of the Confederate emblem.
Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, is the most prominent Republican official to call for a new flag; both U.S. senators have also called for a change. Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves have said voters should decide, similar to the 2001 ballot referendum when Mississippians voted two-to-one to keep the current flag.
Mississippi Today phoned a half-dozen GOP county chairs around the state Tuesday afternoon, and none of them wanted to talk about Taggart’s memo. A phone message and email to Mississippi Republican Party headquarters also went unreturned.
Despite his longtime work as a GOP operative, Taggart said his position on the flag is about what’s right and not political expediency. If anything, he acknowledges, there would likely be some political blowback for Republicans who come out in support of a new flag.
“I’m not proposing to do it because it’s a smart political decision – it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “Over time the flag is going to be changed. The question is: What side of history are Mississippi Republicans going to be on?”