More than 130 years after Reconstruction ended, South Carolina’s official Legislative Manual still refers to elected officials from the period with derogatory descriptions.
At the end of the 625 page manual is a list of all former governors, lieutenant governors, and speakers of the State House. Next to some names are parenthetical notations such as “appointed by” and “son of.”
A few others, however, received some not-so-nice descriptions.
Former Speakers Samuel J. Lee and R.B. Elliott, for example, are labeled “Negros” while Franklin J. Moses is referred to as a “Scalawag.” A trio of lieutenants governor were listed with similar notations.
While it's pretty certain that the wording was not left in there with any sort of malicious intent, it's just as certain the use of references of "negro" and "scalawag" was originally intended as a malicious statement towards those who challenged all-white rule in South Carolina. As such, keeping it in there honors those bigots who originated the language, and dishonors those whose names the notations were added to.
In an AP story which followed Fogle's post, a number of Democratic leaders seemed to not find the comments a big deal, which seemed puzzling. In this matter, Republicans have two good reasons to call for such language to be removed: first, to show respect and sensitivity towards the state's minority population, and second, to honor these pioneers of the Republican Party, who were the first Republican House Speakers in state history.
Such a gesture may seem symbolic, but in politics, symbolism can matter as much - and sometimes more than - actual substance. Republicans need only look to the example of Ronald Reagan smart use of symbolic imagery and gestures to convey messages and accomplish political objectives.
In the run-up to this year's GOP convention, Karen Floyd and most of the other candidates talked about wanting to diversify a party which is all but totally disconnected from the state's minority voters. Repudiating such language would be a small, but positive, step in showing that the SCGOP leadership is serious about charting a new and more constructive course in its minority outreach.