Our View: Public deserves to know where lawmakers stand on issues




Thursday night, the Oktibbeha County NAACP held its regular monthly meeting and chapter president Yulana Haddix moved quickly through the regular agenda to leave as much time as possible for a discussion on the hottest topic in the state right now: The status of the Mississippi flag.


Earlier that day, a motion was filed to suspend the rules and allow the Senate to poll its members about a possible bill that would call for the removal of the flag, whose Confederate imagery continues to be a contentious matter, especially in light of recent protests against racial injustice and police brutality directed toward black citizens.


Both chambers are now considering legislation to remove the flag, the first real effort to do so since 2001, when voters in the state chose to retain the flag by a 2-to-1 vote, largely along racial lines.



A Dispatch story which polled the Golden Triangle's seven-member legislative delegation became a point of discussion.


Of the seven legislators, only Rep. Gary Chism, a Columbus Republican, said he would vote against a flag change in the House and, if it came to that, at the ballot box.


Interestingly, those at the NAACP meeting directed little ire at Chism. In fact, there was almost a sense of grudging respect for Chism, who at least had the courage to state his position unequivocally.


No, their displeasure was directed at Rep. Dana McLean, also a Republican from Columbus. McLean said she would not vote for a bill to change the flag in the legislature, but might abstain. But what really upset the NAACP members was that McLean declined to answer how she would vote if the flag was on the ballot.


Many of those at Thursday's meeting remembered that McLean had attended and spoke at Saturday's March for Justice, appealing for unity. Those words seemed hollow in the wake of her refusal to give a clear answer on where she stands on the flag when provided the opportunity.


McLean's position is that the decision on the flag belongs to the people as decided in the voting booth. But when asked how she would vote, she refused to answer.


"What I believe is not important," she said.


She could not be more wrong.


We have a reasonable expectation to know what our representatives think about the issues, especially the big issues. When candidates run for office, they understand people want to know where they stand. It's how they determine who will get their vote.


It should be no different when that candidate is elected. If anything, that person has an even greater obligation to give an honest and open accounting of his/her views. That is how we determine whether or not they are effective in the important work we have selected them to do. Likewise, some look to elected officials when forming their own views on an issue.


The conclusion of those at Thursday's meeting seemed to be McLean may be prone to say one thing on a Saturday, but hold a different view a few days later.


By refusing to stand up for what she believes and state it plainly, McLean has violated the trust bestowed upon her.


We sincerely hope she will see the error of her ways and state plainly her personal position on the flag. If she supports the current flag, she should say so. If she's for its removal, she should say that.


What she believes does matter. It matters to the people who trusted her with their votes.




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