Neither near the beaches nor up in the hills did we see a single Confederate flag during a recent visit to the larger Los Angeles area. In a place where travel is measured more in time than in miles, we spent interminable hours on I-5, the 605, the 405, the 101 and their many siblings. The number of car bumpers we saw approached something like a bajillion. And yet, the stars and bars never showed themselves.
As noted in a previous post, it took a matter of hours to spy the Confederate flag in the Boise, Idaho area (pop. 664,000). And they are not uncommon even in liberal Western Washington (pop. 5.2 million). So why are they so rare in a metro region with 19 million residents (10 million in LA County alone)?
At the time of the Civil War, California was already a Republican state, generally aligned with the North. The Northwest, including Washington Territory and it’s offshoot, Idaho Territory, were also under Republican control, and therefore opposed to slavery. Now Washington and California combine with Oregon to make up the left coast, with Democrats in charge from Bellingham to San Diego. Idaho, meanwhile, is the most Republican-dominated state in the union. None of this, sadly, gives us much clue to the infiltration of Confederate thought into the PNW versus Hollywood.
Research may tell us more, but our first guess is that the Confederate flag now represents more than southern whiteness, but it still represents a particular brand of whiteness. It could be that the Confederate brand just doesn’t sell in metro LA. In a case of correlation that could be spurious, we’d note that we saw seemingly as many white people driving Porsches in California as we see white people driving Subarus in Washington.
More likely still is that Californians, the large majority of whom are not white, simply will not tolerate displays of the Confederate flag. Frankly, it probably isn’t wise to drive through some parts of Los Angeles with that on your bumper.