Last year, state Senator Lee Bright was the main challenger from the Tea Party against U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham for his seat representing South Carolina. Lee Bright gathered nearly twice the number of votes his nearest competitor Richard Cash did, and still lost to Lindsey Graham by 41 percentage points during the Republican primary.
That’s right, in the deep red state of South Carolina, a right-wing Tea Party conservative state senator ran against a moderately conservative, establishment Republican and lost badly.
Now Lindsey Graham is running for president, and his former primary opponent whose campaign raffled off an AR-15 in response to the Sandy Hook shooting is also the co-chair of his presidential primary opponent’s campaign. South Carolina state Senator Lee Bright isn’t the only right-wing, Tea Party conservative picked by Ted Cruz to run his campaign at the state level either. In Tennessee, Ted Cruz tapped Kevin Kookogey, a notorious anti-Muslim politician who once claimed Republican Gov. Bill Haslem was giving preferential treatment to Sharia law adherents for hiring a Muslim attorney, Samir Ali.
Needless to say, Ted Cruz picked a real gem in state Sen. Lee Bright who weighed in on South Carolina’s Confederate flag debate today by screaming about religious freedom, gays, and the devil.
State Sen. Lee Bright, a Republican from Spartanburg, took to the podium ostensibly to express his feelings in support of the flag. But in an unexpected (though not surprising) twist, he instead used his time to inveigh against same-sex marriage, decrying President Barack Obama’s projection of “the abomination colors” on the White House, asserting that it is “time for the church to rise up” (which was odd, considering that he was in the senate chambers and not in front of his congregation), and defending the right of local clerks not to do their jobs. “If we are not one nation under God, we’ll be one nation gone under,” Bright exclaimed, his voice cracking with emotion. “We can rally together and talk about a flag all we want, but the devil is taking control of this land and we’re not stopping him!” (Source)
Inevitably, whenever you’re debating anything with a far-right Republican, the argument eventually devolves into them screaming about how they’re being oppressed when they can’t have preferential treatment. The very flag that the South Carolina Senate was debating today isn’t the state flag with moon and palmetto tree, it is a flag that was first flown on the state’s capitol building in 1961 during the Dixecrats’ opposition to desegregation and the civil rights movement. While some people will claim this flag is about heritage and not hatred, it’s no secret that the Stars and Bars is the preferred flag of white supremacists across the United States, and even in Germany where they use it in place of the banned Nazi flag.
While Sen. Lee Bright didn’t really address the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina capitol grounds today, electing instead to channel his inner Louie Gohmert, he has announced his support for keeping the flag flying and compared the effort to remove the flag to a “Stalinist purge.”
It’s important to note that Bright’s anti-gay rant was not a tangent unrelated to the issue of the Confederate flag, which South Carolina lawmakers are debating today. Bright, a leader of the effort to keep the flag on statehouse grounds, has directly linked the two issues, writing in a Facebook post in defense of the flag that “the recent SCOTUS decisions teach us anything, it’s that states’ rights are under attack more than ever.”
In an email urging his supporters to sign a petition supporting the Confederate flag last week, Bright defended the flag as a symbol of the “brave Confederates” who “made a bold stand against an oppressive government that far overstepped its Constitutional limits” and of “a culture that values freedom, even in the face of federal tyranny.” (Source)
The culture that Lee Bright talks about valuing freedom only did so if you were an affluent white man who owned property, and considered the freedom of people who weren’t to be tyranny by “an oppressive government.” The flag that Lee Bright supports represents not only a society where people were treated like livestock to be bought and sold, but it also represented a culture of the 1%, for the 1%, and by the 1%. No wonder Republican politicians with the backing of billionaire donors find it so appealing, even if they aren’t prejudiced.
By the way, despite all the unhinged sound and fury from Sen. Lee Bright today, the South Carolina Senate voted 37-3 to remove the flag from capitol grounds. There will be one more vote tomorrow before sending the measure to the House of Representatives. It looks like after 54 years, South Carolina is taking one small step towards joining the rest of us in the 21st century. Your move, Mississippi.
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