It took less than two days for the press to take a story about a white South Carolina man who shot and killed nine black churchgoers, and turn it into a story about the Confederate battle flag flying outside South Carolina’s state house.

For media, the flag as a supposedly influential symbol of racial oppression and hate represented an issue that required immediate attention and hours of coverage. By Friday, the press’ focus on the flag was intense…

President Obama’s aides were even queried aboard Air Force One Friday by reporters keen to know where the commander in chief stood on the question of South Carolina’s continued use of the Confederate battle flag. The White House reiterated the president’s position that the flag belongs in a museum.

[A]s a political symbol, the flag was revived when northern Democrats began to press for an end to the South’s system of racial oppression. In 1948, the Dixiecrats revolted against President Harry Truman—who had desegregated the armed forces and supported anti-lynching bills. The movement began in Mississippi in February of 1948, with thousands of activists “shouting rebel yells and waving the Confederate flag,” as the Associated Press reported at the time. Some actually removed old, mothballed flags from the trunks where they had until then been gathering dust.

At the Democratic convention that July, nine southern states backed Georgia’s Senator Richard Russell over Truman, parading around the floor behind a waving Confederate flag to the strains of Dixie. The Dixiecrats reconvened in Birmingham, nominating South Carolina Governor Strom Thurmond for the presidency. Sales of Confederate flags, long moribund, exploded. Stores could not keep them in stock. The battle flag became the symbol of segregation

The black press did not find the phenomena quite so baffling. “In a large measure,” wrote the Chicago Defender in 1951, “the rebel craze is an ugly reaction to the remarkable progress of our group.” That was true in the North, as well as the South.

[Former SC state Rep. Bakari] Sellers argued that the Confederate flag actually provided Roof with the “reason” and “some justification” to go through with his killing nine members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC.

“We stand here still crying,” Sellers said. “We stand here still screaming; we stand here still in so much pain. When you go to our state capitol and you see a banner that may not have pulled the trigger and killed Clementa Pinckney and eight others, it definitely did provide Mr. Roof with some reason to do so. It provided him with some justification. And that is what’s troublesome.”

The South Carolina legislature could move swiftly to take down the Confederate flag that is roiling the Republican presidential primary in the wake of a mass shooting at a black church in Charleston.

In doing so, the Republican-controlled legislature in this key early presidential primary state could save their party and its 2016 contenders from having to perpetually discuss the politically sensitive (and often disadvantageous) topic of racism rather than winning issues like the economy and national security…

“The notion of a bill being introduced in December and debated next year doesn’t need to happen,” a Republican insider in Columbia, the state capital, told the Washington Examiner late Saturday. “The most straightforward path to removing the flag is to pass a permanent proviso in the fiscal-year 2016 budget, which is still in conference committee.”

South Carolina state Rep. Norman “Doug” Brannon (R) said Friday night he plans on introducing a bill to remove the Confederate flag near his state’s capitol building.
 
The legislation was inspired by Wednesday evening’s mass shooting that claimed nine lives at historic black church in Charleston, S.C., he said.
 
“I’m not a politician tonight,” Brannon told host Chris Hayes on MSNBC’s “All In” on Friday evening.
 
“But I do have access, and I will introduce that bill in December,” he said of the proposed change in state law. “I will pre-file that bill in December when we go back into session.”

In an interview Saturday, Mr. Brannon said every one of the approximately 25 legislators he had talked with about his measure had been positive, either expressing support or at least offering encouragement.

“The flag is kind of like algae in a lake,” he said. “It’s just barely under the surface, everybody knows it’s there, but unless something like this happens nobody talks about it.”

In this case, he spoke bluntly about what that something was.

“What lit the fire under this was the tragic death of my friend and his eight parishioners,” Mr. Brannon said. “It took my buddy’s death to get me to do this. I should feel ashamed of myself.”

Gov. Nikki Haley does not have the authority to remove the flag from the grounds. A two-thirds vote by both chambers of the General Assembly is needed to tamper with any of the monuments that are part of the Statehouse complex. That includes the battle flag, which flies as part of the Confederate Soldier Monument that commemorates those who died during the Civil War.

For that reason, Lonnie Randolph, president of the state conference of the NAACP, called on the crowd to participate in the 2016 election, noting that “something ain’t right” with the low voter participation rates of the state.

“I want you to continue your support because 507 days from now, we’re going to have another election in this state and in this country,” Randolph said. “We don’t have to come out here on days over 100 degrees when you vote right. Leave here committed that you’re going to do something for the cause of freedom, justice and equality.”

“Who’s more responsible for these murders: the flag, or Dylann Roof?” Breitbart News asked Romney.

The sixth question was: “Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of people see that flag on the SC Capitol grounds every year and have for decades,” Breitbart News asked Romney. “None of them kill people in cold blood engaging in premeditated murder of innocent people in a Church. Why does Governor Romney think that the flag led Dylann Roof to premeditate murder against several people in a Church?”…

“George W. Bush, during the 2000 presidential election GOP primary, said he thought the people of South Carolina should decide whether they want the flag, not some outsiders. Why should a former Massachusetts governor–from one of the most liberal states in America–or someone from the Island of Manhattan tell anyone in South Carolina what to do?” Breitbart News asked Romney.

When it comes to dealing with the Confederate flag, Jeb Bush isn’t leaving much room for interpretation in his stance on the issue…

“My position on how to address the Confederate flag is clear,” he said in a written statement. “In Florida we acted, moving the flag from the state grounds to a museum where it belonged. This is obviously a very sensitive time in South Carolina and our prayers are with the families, the AME church community and the entire state. Following a period of mourning there will rightly be a discussion among leaders in the state about how South Carolina should move forward, and I’m confident they will do the right thing.”

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio approvingly pointed to Bush’s decision, in 2001, to quietly move Florida’s confederate flag from the state Capitol to a museum. Like Bush, Rubio said today’s decision is in South Carolina’s hands.

“In Florida it’s not up to our — it was moved to a museum. I support that decision,” Rubio said. “And I think ultimately the people of South Carolina will make the right decision for South Carolina. And I believe in their capacity to make that decision.” Asked if moving the flag was an example of the “right decision,” Rubio wouldn’t say.

However, Rubio didn’t mention that he signed on to what became a failed bill in the 2001 Florida Legislature that would have prevented the further removal of Confederate and other war memorabilia by executive action. The bill was drafted in opposition to Bush’s unilateral removal of the Confederate flag at Florida’s Capitol.

Republican Mike Huckabee says the Confederate flag debate in South Carolina is something for that state’s residents to take on if they so choose, but he doesn’t believe presidential candidates need to take a stand on the topic

The former Arkansas governor says he believes voters want presidential candidates focused on the economy and keeping Americans safe. They don’t want the candidates weighing in on every “little issue in all 50 states” however important that issue is to a particular state.

“I understand the passions that this debate evokes on both sides,” [Ted Cruz] said. “Both those who see a history of racial oppression and a history of slavery, which is the original sin of our nation, and we fought a bloody civil war to expunge that sin.”

He added: “But I also understand those who want to remember the sacrifices of their ancestors and the traditions of their states, not the racial oppression, but the historical traditions, and I think often this issue is used as a wedge to try to divide people.”…

I think that’s a question for South Carolina, and the last thing they need is people from outside the state coming in and dictating how they should resolve that issue,” Cruz said.

“That’s opening up Pandora’s box,” Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), a former governor of the state, said when asked on MSNBC if it should be taken down.

“If you touch it, you usually die politically,” Scott Buchanan, a political science professor at The Citadel in South Carolina, told The State newspaper in 2014…

As the debate in South Carolina continued over the Confederate flag, [David] Beasley became just a one-term governor in part thanks to it.

The devout Christian said he had a change of heart while reading the Bible. In 1996, he made a very public speech calling for the removal of the flag from the capital. He lost his 1998 reelection bid — in part, analysts argue, because conservatives who supported the flag stayed home.

In that South Carolina will never willingly take down the flag, the time has come for opponents to exercise their First Amendment right to free speech and burn the Confederate flag — at the state Capitol in South Carolina, in front of the White House, in front of Fox News or maybe even outside the Grand Ol’ Opry…

The display of the Confederate flag — anywhere — is a nonverbal statement of race hate. Its burning would be a nonverbal response to its crude attitude. You’re sure not going to change their attitudes with sweet reason. Fight their figurative fire with the real thing.

People who still believe in the values of the “Lost Cause” need to be educated about how normal people feel about their insurrection. We are happy that Abraham Lincoln and the Union army smashed a society based on cruel exploitation, rape and sadism…

There’s no need to debate the Confederate flag issue anymore. In honor of Dylann Roof, it’s time to burn, baby, burn.