Despite the lessons of history, the fierce resistance of many black lawmakers and a statewide boycott by the NAACP, a small band of Palmetto State officials have fought tooth and nail to ensure the continued, prominent display of the Confederate flag from the statehouse dome for everyone in Columbia to enjoy. The problem, of course, is that not everyone enjoys seeing that particular flag; while the Dixiecrat faction cites it as a symbol of what they refer to as the Confederacy's rich cultural history, their opponents decry the flag as a constant, taunting reminder of the bad old days of slavery, Jim Crow and segregation. In the end, the stigma of national disgust and the prospect of continued anti-flag marches on the Capitol proved too much for all but the staunchest Confederate boosters.
"This debate became a source of tremendous embarrassment for South Carolina," says TIME national correspondent Jack White. "The only reason the flag stayed on the statehouse for so long was that a tiny minority of powerful lawmakers dug in their heels and insisted on ignoring the will of the people of the state." And while Wednesday's legislation represents more of a compromise than an unqualified victory for the flag's foes the bill ensures the flag's presence on Capitol grounds and would forbid the removal of, or changes to, any Confederate monument across the state it does accomplish one major feat: At last, state legislators have a chance to close the door on this lengthy and painful debate and finally focus on the business of governing.