Virginia Governor McDonnell and the Neo-Confederates

Viriginia Governor Bob McDonnell’s pandering to the racist neo-Confederate crowd didn’t just start with his proclamation of “Confederate History Month.” In 2002, Donnell got into trouble when he used a pledge written by the United Daughters of the Confederacy to open sessions of the Virginia House of Delegates. Ben Tribbett has the details.

After the 2001 election where Republicans took 66 of 100 seats in the Virginia House of Delegates, then-Delegate Bob McDonnell had a motion on the opening day of the 2002 session. He wanted the House of Delegates to begin reciting a “salute to the flag of the Commonwealth of Virginia”. The words to the Salute had been passed in 1954 and didn’t raise a red flag on their own:

“I salute the flag of Virginia, with reverence and patriotic devotion to the “Mother of States and Statesmen” which it represents - the “Old Dominion,” where liberty and independence were born.”

A few days into 2002 session the Richmond Times-Dispatch broke a story of where this pledge came from. It was from the United Daughters of the Confederacy- who had been using it at every official gathering since 1946!

Immediately all hell broke loose in the General Assembly. McDonnell played coy- pretending he didn’t know where the pledge (that he had asked the House of Delegates to recite each day) came from:

Delegate Robert F. McDonnell (R-Virginia Beach), who suggested that the salute be revived, claimed ignorance of its origins but told the Times-Dispatch last week he hoped they would not detract from the sentiments it expresses. “The words are good,” he said. “I don’t think we should malign that great salute based on any links to the Confederacy, and I hope people will understand this.”

The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus then asked that the House stop with this UDC pledge. McDonnell led the fight on the floor to keep it. The motion to do away with the pledge failed on a 50-48 vote. Having ignored the pain he was causing- McDonnell continued to lead the House in the pledge for another two years until after the 2003 elections. For those two years, members of the Black Caucus refused to participate in this “pledge”.

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