California Stars ‘n’ Bars Update

by Tim Cavanaugh

The California Assembly sponsor of a bill to outlaw sales of the Confederate flag by state agencies got back to National Review Online Friday, days after the bill began to blow up in the face of the Golden State’s leading Republican candidate for governor.

“This has nothing to do with one’s individual rights,” says Compton Democrat Isadore Hall III. “The bill would not mean schools have to get rid of Confederate flags in school books. It means that the government itself shall not sell on state property a symbol of hatred.”

Hall points out that the language of the bill contains an exemption that “clearly states it does not affect textbooks and things of that nature.” It seems to me the bill could unnecessarily prohibit sales of, for example, prints showing the battle of Gettysburg; but as noted previously, California’s Civil War history was pretty uneventful, so even that wouldn’t exactly be gutting a crucial part of state history. My objection remains that the time the state spends on this kind of legislation would be better spent repealing thousands of pages of California’s vast legal code or winding down a few hundred of its nearly 400 state agencies. (Mysteriously, that option doesn’t seem to be in play.)

A more direct impact of AB2444 is being felt however. All of the state’s legislative Republicans were savvy enough to avoid getting suckered into defending the Stars and Bars on the floor of the Assembly — all except one, and he’s the Republicans’ leading candidate for governor. Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, who is leading the party-favored candidate Neel Kashkari by 6 to15 percentage points in polls, voted against Hall’s bill. He was the only assembly member of either party to do so.

Huffington Post is now calling Donnelly “the next Todd Akin.” The Wall Street Journal calls him a “crank” on a “Kamikaze mission.” Prominent state Republicans have a clear shot at Donnelly on other issues as well. Congressman Darrell Issa of North San Diego County blasted Donnelly Thursday for claiming Kashkari supports Sharia law.

To a great extent, this is a non-issue. The California GOP candidates are basically competing for the honor of getting vaporized by Governor Jerry Brown in November.

As Hall points out, Donnelly is also responsible for his own predicament. “I love Tim Donnelly, but Tim Donnelly is wrong,” Hall says. “He’s wrong on the issue. There should never be an instance where the state of California as a government is selling a symbol of hate. And he is the lone ranger on this bill. Even his fellow Republicans say he’s wrong. Even the most conservative Republicans say so.”

To support his point, Hall noted that he tweeted a photo of Donnelly and himself hanging out like buds on the Assembly floor:

Hall assured National Review Online that he was not wearing jeans in the people’s chamber. His light-colored slacks are in fact made of weather-appropriate cotton.