Matt Bevin calls for removal of Jefferson Davis statue from Kentucky capitol as retailers dump Confederate flag merch

Is this bolder than what Haley did or not as bold? Davis may not hold the same cultural currency as a symbol of southern pride that the flag does, but Haley had less to lose in making her move than Bevin does. She’s the term-limited governor of South Carolina; he’s the GOP nominee for governor in Kentucky. If there’s a broader southern backlash coming to all of the criticism of Confederate iconography this past week, he’ll pay for it more than she will.

Hard to believe Bevin would have picked this fight without the enormous political cover he got yesterday from Haley, Tim Scott, Lindsey Graham, and a variety of presidential candidates who backed her decision. She singlehandedly made it safe for southern Republicans to go their own way on the flag and related symbols.

And now, the backlash?

That’s going to thicken the plot as retailers come under pressure to dump their own Confederate-themed merchandise. Depending upon how strong the backlash is, there’s potentially a lot of money being left on the table as flags and related products are pulled. Even so, as of this morning, Wal-Mart says it’ll no longer sell items with the Confederate flag on it and Sears announced that it’ll block third-party sales of Confederate-themed products at Sears and K-Mart. “Who cares?” you say. “People who want stuff like that will just go to eBay for it.” Aha:

Currently still for sale on eBay as I write this: Nazi memorabilia and tributes to communist degenerates of various stripes. Will Amazon buckle next? Will Craigslist? The stricter the taboo against the Confederate flag, warns Scott Shackford, the more of a fetish it’ll become for holdouts. But maybe that’s the point: The further underground the flag is driven, critics will argue, the more likely it is that only the most determined fans of the Confederacy will seek it out for display. If that perception takes hold, that anyone willing to go to the trouble of obtaining a flag must want it for more than reasons of simple southern pride, it’ll reinforce the point made by the flag’s critics that it’s inseparable from its racist pedigree. Enhancing the taboo against the flag is, to its opponents, worth the risk of a backlash, I think. Especially now that both parties are onboard in opposition to it, pushing it further out of the mainstream.

Anyway. It’s amazing to watch politicians and corporations scramble in the past 24 hours to purge themselves of the flag after decade upon decade of complacency. Dan Foster’s joke about the spastic moralizing of online lefties made me laugh, but it applies just as well to companies like Wal-Mart and eBay. The striking thing isn’t that they’ve had a change of heart when, and only when, it was suddenly politically convenient to do so. The striking thing is how sure they are of their new position after holding the opposite position for ages.

The flag is banned “consistent with our longstanding policy that prohibits items that promote hatred, violence or glorify racial intolerance,” said the spokesman for a company that’s trafficking in Third Reich coins as I write this. The only other political hot topic on which you’ll see an evolution as quick and sharp as that is gay marriage, where it’s acceptable for new converts to the cause to dismiss their opponents as hateful bigots on Tuesday even if they held the traditional position themselves on Monday. Are sudden, dramatic conversions like that becoming more common in politics? If so, I can imagine lots of theories to explain it: Mickey Kaus’s “Feiler Faster” thesis; the left’s growing skill at intimidating corporations with boycott threats; the culture’s growing addiction to “judgment porn”; or, most charitably, the politics of an issue shifting just enough to allow a huge reservoir of silent popular opinion to come spilling out. E.g., maybe eBay always wanted to ban the Confederate flag but was too scared of losing southern business if it did. Now that Haley et al. made the issue bipartisan, they can make their true feelings known. I don’t buy that in the gay-marriage example — how many Americans or American companies were even secretly pro-SSM 15 years ago? — but there may be something to it in the case of the flag, which has been a political headache for members of both parties for years but which was only safe to cure after the outpouring of grief over the massacre in Charleston. How much benefit of the doubt do you want to give eBay?

Update: Just as I was finishing the post, Amazon made its move: