While too many Republicans of national stature "tread carefully" in commenting on displays of the Confederate flag, Iowa GOP Chair Jeff Kaufmann provided a clinic this week on how to talk about the issue.
The truck pulling the Marion County GOP float in Pella's July 4 parade featured three Confederate flags (click through for a photo). Rod Boshart of the Cedar Rapids Gazette contacted Kaufmann for comment and was rewarded with outstanding material.
"I am just absolutely, utterly disgusted on multiple levels," Kaufmann said in a telephone interview. "Shame on them and I don't want them in my party." [...]
Kaufmann said the Republican officials involved in the incident need to apologize to the people of Iowa and to the Republican Party of Iowa, especially for disrespecting the 17,000 Iowans who died in the American Civil War 150 years ago while fighting as part of the Union army.
"I'm disappointed in what I've heard. I condemn their actions on behalf of the Republican Party of Iowa in the strongest words possible," Kaufman said. "I'm very disappointed that a local central committee would engage in such juvenile and stupid demonstrations." [...]
"We are the party of Abraham Lincoln. We were the party that supported the Union army and we are still that party of Abraham Lincoln. I absolutely won't tolerate it. We have no room in our party for people like that - none," he said. "I hope they toss those people out (of the local GOP) so fast, it'll make your head swim. And, if they don't, I'll lead a party of 98 central committees.""
If only every Republican who bragged about the "party of Lincoln" could speak so clearly. Kaufmann's been a history and politics professor at Muscatine Community College since 1997.
Owen and Linda Golay, who own the truck and put the Confederate flags out for the parade, have resigned from the Marion County GOP Central Committee. Speaking to Josh Hafner of the Des Moines Register, Owen Golay did not apologize:
He said he hoisted the three flags above his truck to make a statement: Confederate soldiers are veterans, too.
"This was my whole point with this whole exercise: to represent a segment of American veterans that are being buried in history, three of which [sic] are buried in Marion County," he said. [...]
"The way the Confederate flag is being used today, it is a reminder of a time in our history when we have slavery, when we justified that," said Kaufmann, a history teacher who claims to have read 250 books on the Civil War. "The Civil War was about freedom. It was about so much more than generic states' rights. That's a silly and naive contention that people have."
Owen Golay, who said he's studied the Civil War plenty himself, said Kaufmann needs to brush up on his history.
"I guess my message to Mr. Kaufmann would be that we won't be slaves to the Republican Party," he said.
News flash for Mr. Golay: the Republican Party grew out of the abolitionist movement, whereas the Confederate flag has always been a symbol of slavery and "violent racism," no matter how hard some try to rebrand it as a symbol of Southern "heritage."
Partial credit goes to Governor Terry Branstad, who described the display of Confederate flags as "just wrong and disrespectful" to Iowans who fought to preserve the Union during the Civil War. True, but the main problem with the "stars and bars" is that it celebrates a culture where white people went to war to preserve the right to own black people as property.