Sun Herald: ‘This is history in the making.’ MS business alliance campaigns for new state flag.
Oct 5, 2020
A business community that fought in unison for at least 20 years to replace Mississippi’s state flag with its prominent Confederate emblem is taking nothing for granted in the final phase of the battle.
The Alliance for Mississippi’s Future — civic, business and community leaders working with the Mississippi Economic Council — is launching an advertising and social media campaign that will stress the importance of voting for the new flag, branded as the ‘In God We Trust’ flag.
The business alliance’s website is also selling the new flag and images of it on yard signs and even COVID-19 masks.
“We’ve go to get this thing across the goal line because we’ve got so much potential for the future if we get this done, ” said Scott Waller, president of the MEC, the state’s chamber of commerce.
He and Anthony Wilson of Mississippi Power, current MEC chairman, want to spread the message about why the flag vote is so important. In an interview with the Sun Herald, they said that they want to remind voters of two key points:
- The new flag will not become the official state flag without majority approval from voters.
- Rejection of the new flag does not mean the old flag is coming back.
VOTE TO BOTTOM OF BALLOT URGED
Under pressure, the Legislature voted in June to retire the old flag, the last in the nation to include the Confederate battle emblem. The bill that they passed created a nine-member commission to select a new flag design and let voters accept or reject the final design.
If the design is rejected, the selection process will repeat next year. The law prohibits any new flag design from including the Confederate battle flag.
The Commission to Redesign the Mississippi State Flag reviewed more than 3,000 submissions and took public input as they winnowed the choices down to the Magnolia flag.
The flag features a Magnolia on a blue field surrounded by 21 stars, including a prominent star at the top inspired by the Mississippi Band of Choctaws, and the words “In God We Trust” at the bottom. Gold and red stripes frame the design.
The new flag is on the ballot along with the race for president, the U.S. Senate and, depending on the district or county, some contested races for the U.S. House, state Supreme Court and local offices.
Three statewide ballot measures follow those races. The state flag measure, which features a color photo of the proposed flag design, is at the bottom of the ballot and voters don’t always make it that far.
“We just need people to see it through,” Wilson said. “Vote all the way to the bottom of the ballot.”
ALLIANCE HOPES CITIZENS BUY, FLY NEW FLAG BEFORE ELECTION
The business community views the flag vote as having vital importance for Mississippi’s image and economic prospects.
If voters don’t approve the new flag, Mississippi will remain in the national spotlight over a previous state flag widely viewed as a racist symbol. For many, the old flag is considered offensive and hurtful to black residents.
“We feel it’s extremely important to put this behind us completely by adopting a new flag,” Waller said.
To that end, the business alliance plans to spend up to $500,000 on its information campaign supporting the new flag. The alliance has set up the website ingodwetrustflag.com, where new flags can be ordered and the process for selecting the flag is explained in detail.
An introduction on the home page says: “The ‘In God We Trust’ flag is anchored in the center field by a clean and modern Magnolia blossom, a symbol long-used to represent our state and the hospitality of our citizens.
“The magnolia also represents Mississippi’s sense of hope and rebirth, as the Magnolia often blooms more than once and has a long blooming season.”
The website is selling flags, and yard signs and stickers featuring an image of the flag. Masks for COVID-19 are even for sale. The alliance hopes the new flag will be flying in all parts of Mississippi ahead of the election.
ATTITUDE ON STATE FLAG SHIFTS
Mississippians indicated in June that they are ready for a new flag, which MEC termed “a historic shift” from 18 months earlier.
Support went from 54% unfavorable in 2019 to 55% favorable in the more recent poll, conducted by the nationally recognized Tarrance Group.
Wilson and Waller said the “In God We Trust” motto on the flag added to its appeal for legislators and citizens.
The business alliance hopes the election will once and for all put to rest the issue of where Mississippi stands on its state flag.
Waller said: “Without question, it was a historic moment when the flag came down. It was a historic moment when the commission released this flag.
“We have one more opportunity for a historic moment when the people vote for this flag as their choice, and the Legislature has the opportunity to approve it in January.
“This is history in the making. We have a long and historic past, some of it great and some of it not so great. Let’s vote for this flag for the future, to have this flag approved and move forward.”