Democrat Jim Webb said Wednesday the Confederate flag has “wrongly” been used for racist purposes in recent decades, but did not comment on whether or not the flag should be removed from places like the capitol grounds in South Carolina.
Webb, who is a descendent of Confederate soldiers, broke with what other Democrats vying for their party’s presidential nomination have said about the recent groundswell of opposition to the flag.
The Southern Democrat and veteran posted a statement on Facebook that cautioned against jumping to conclusion on the flag.
“We all need to think through these issues with a care that recognizes the need for change but also respects the complicated history of the Civil War,” he wrote. “The Confederate Battle Flag has wrongly been used for racist and other purposes in recent decades. It should not be used in any way as a political symbol that divides us.”
Last week’s massacre of nine African-American parishioners at a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina, kicked off a conversation about the Confederate flag; the 21-year-old white perpetrator posted several photos on social media featuring it.
As a result, Southern states across the country – including South Carolina, Mississippi and Alabama – have begun the process of removing such flags from state property.
But Webb’s statement marks a different tone.
“This is a time for us to come together, and to recognize once more that our complex multicultural society is founded on the principle of mutual respect,” Webb said.
The statement does not mention what Webb thinks should be done in South Carolina or the fact that companies like Walmart, eBay and Amazon have decided to stop selling merchandise featuring the flag.
Craig Crawford, Webb’s spokesman, did not respond to follow up questions on whether Webb believes the flag should be removed from the South Carolina statehouse.
Webb is a dark horse in the race for the Democratic nomination. Though he has yet to formally announce his candidacy, he has formed an exploratory committee and would seek to represent a moderate wing of the party – on of questionable size and influence given the rise of progressive Democrats.
The former Virginia senator has long been a historian of the Civil War, and in particular the Confederacy. He wrote in his 2004 memoir, “Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America,” that “revisionist politicians and academics to defame the entire Confederate Army in a move that can only be termed the Nazification of the Confederacy.”
“Often cloaked in that argument over the public display of the Confederate battle flag, the syllogism goes something like this: Slavey was evil. The soldiers of the Confederacy fought for a system that wished to preserve it,” he wrote. “Therefore they were evil as well, and any attempt to honor their service is a veiled effort to glorify the cause of slavery. This blatant use of the ‘race card’ in order to inflame their political and academic constituencies is a tired, seemingly endless game that is itself perhaps the greatest legacy of the Civil War.”