/Gov Tate Reeves put himself in a no-win political position during state flag debate

Gov Tate Reeves put himself in a no-win political position during state flag debate

As Speaker Philip Gunn, and Lt. Governor. Reeves held his first news conference since June 18th to update the public on the COVID-19 pandemic. Reeves had already scheduled his news conference prior to the legislative leaders setting a date and time for the flag furling ceremony. Hosemann and Gunn spoke about the significance of the flag being retired. It could be argued, perhaps, that the governor’s absence at this pivotal moment in state history was symbolic. Reeves was placed in an almost impossible political position by the Legislature’s vote to replace the flag on June 27. This was a situation that he probably never imagined coming to pass until it was all over him like a ton bricks. Reeves stated clearly that he would not vote against changing the flag during his 2019 gubernatorial campaign. Unfortunately for Reeves Gunn did not make that promise. The House speaker has supported changing the flag since 2015. As momentum grew in the United States and Mississippi over recent weeks to address issues racial injustices, the flag remained a sticking point. Soon media reports revealed that behind-the scenes talks were taking place between a bipartisan group legislative members to alter the banner. Reeves should not have been worried. Even though Gunn was opposed, Reeves had never attempted to pass a bill to change the flag, as he couldn’t get the simple majority required to pass it. And at the late date in the session, a renewed effort to change the flag would require what appeared to be an impossible-to-achieve two-thirds majority vote. Reeves was questioned about the flag change at his almost daily news conferences, which were held to provide COVID-19 updates. Reeves reiterated that he believes the flag should be kept the same as it is. Members of the media started to question Reeves about his personal opinion on the flag’s offensiveness and whether it should be changed. Reeves refused to answer the question repeatedly, but he did state that he believed that one day the flag will be retired. Reeves stated again at his June 18 news conference that he was not going to answer. However, he did state, “I believe very strongly that if you are going change the flag, it should be the people in Mississippi who decide.” Reeves finally relented on June 25, as momentum increased. Reeves stated on social media that he would not veto a bill if it was voted by the Legislature to change the flag. Reeves said that he knew that a veto was pointless because it required a two thirds majority to override the veto — the same supermajority it took to take down the flag late in session. Hosemann was attempting to get the last votes to secure the super majority in Senate on a rare Saturday session. Reeves then announced that he would sign the bill changing the flag. It has been speculated that Reeves’ announcement on that day helped to garner the necessary votes to pass the bill. It is possible that the answer to this question will never be known. However, it is important to note that Reeves’ statement on Saturday morning was very similar to what he had said two days prior when he said he would not vote against the legislation. There was no difference between signing and not vetoing legislation. The bill would have been passed under either scenario. The resolution that allowed the bill to alter the flag to be considered to pass both chambers was passed later that day. Next day, both chambers passed the bill by margins greater than two-thirds. Reeves signed into law the bill in a private ceremony at Governor’s Mansion two days later. Only three reporters were permitted to attend the event. Six of eight state officials had already endorsed the change.