JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - As more and more people come out in favor of changing Mississippi’s flag, it might appear that those who want change far outnumber those who don’t.
State Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Ellisville, said that’s not true because of what voters have been telling him.
“I’ve been here for a few years now, and no issue has animated Mississippians the way this one has. Not one email, not 10 emails. Thousands of emails. Thousands of phone calls. So they are responding. They don’t have the money some of the outside groups do,” McDaniel said. “They don’t have the political influence the outside groups do. But they are voters, and their voice should be heard. They matter.”
McDaniel claims polling numbers released this week, which show voters want a new flag by a majority for the first time, have been manipulated because of the age groups and racial demographics of those polled.
In the same breath, he asserts “inside” polling shows just the opposite, that most Mississippians want to keep the flag, though the state senator could not provide any concrete data to back up that claim.
“The emails I’m receiving, the calls I’m receiving are as one-sided as an issue can be in this building. The people want to retain the present design or they want a referendum,” McDaniel said.
3 On Your Side couldn’t find any organized groups publicly lobbying the state to keep the current state flag, but a Facebook group which boasts more than 13,000 members, has been posting lawmakers’ numbers in an effort to sway their opinion.
Contrast that with groups wanting a new state flag, McDaniel said, which he believes are financially supported, coordinated and orchestrated to unfairly influence voters who don’t want the change in the first place.
“When you see an orchestrated maneuver like this, where they’re literally timing press releases, timing endorsements, timing visits, that goes to show that’s just the powers that be trying to exert their will over the people,” said McDaniel, referring to public statements from state leaders, universities, and most recently, college coaches who held a press conference at the Capitol Thursday to rally against the current flag.
“We don’t take kindly to that kind of nonsense. If you have an argument, make it. If it’s persuasive, persuade me. If you do, you win the day. But if I have an argument, I want to make it, and if I persuade you, I win the day. That’s what elections are for, and that’s why a referendum is so important,” McDaniel said.
While some lawmakers -- and even state leaders -- have pushed for a referendum instead of giving their position on the flag issue, McDaniel said that’s not why he’s pushing for a vote.
If a majority have a problem with the flag, he respects that.
However, McDaniel said he believes a flag is merely a symbol and no symbol is without controversy.
McDaniel admits that some see Mississippi’s flag as racist, in part because of supremacist groups that have adopted it and changed the meaning, in his opinion.
“It is unfortunate that extremists have grabbed a hold of it. They should be ashamed of themselves. Any movement that focuses on collectivism and violence and threats is a movement that is not welcome in society,” McDaniel said. “Any movement that attempts to not give every individual dignity is not welcome. They should be ashamed of themselves for doing that. My question is, if it changed once, can it change again?”