If we are truly a nation of laws, there should be no brouhaha in Florida over Gov. Ron DeSantis’s order to lower flags to half-staff to honor conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, who died last week.
DeSantis called Limbaugh “a legend” and ordered flags to be flown at half-staff as a show of respect. Many partisans bristled at the idea. It’s become a political matter, or perhaps originated as one. Limbaugh, who claimed Florida as his home state, was a polarizing personality, appreciated more by conservatives than moderates and liberals.
In spite of Limbaugh’s stature, the United States flag code appears to allow no authority for him to be recognized by the lowering of the flag to half-staff. In Title 4, Chapter 1 Sec. 7(m), the U.S. Code is very specific in describing the people who could receive the sacred honor by presidential order upon their death— principal figures of the United States government, and the governor of a state, territory, or possession; or by a governor’s order upon death — a present or former government official, a member of the Armed Forces who dies while serving on active duty, or a first responder who dies in the line of duty.
Still, presidents and state governors have some wiggle room with regard to lowering the flag, and have done so for prominent figures in the past. Would Gov. DeSantis extend the same order for a recently deceased darling of the left? It’s unlikely that he would, nor should he.
The prescription outlined in the code supersedes partisanship, and a recent order from the president to lower flags for five days in memory of 500,000 Americans who have died of COVID-19 would seem to make the governor’s order moot. Gov. DeSantis should keep partisanship out of U.S. flag handling, and find another way to honor the memories of popular native sons and daughters, regardless of their political leanings.