With Senator Jim DeMint announcing his retirement in order to head the conservative Heritage Foundation, Rep. Tim Scott (R-South Carolina)—the only black Republican in the new Congress in January— is the favorite to replace him.
If South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley appoints him to the seat to serve the remainder of DeMint’s term, the move would be good for diversity in the Senate, which currently has no African-Americans. Roland Burris, the last black senator, left office in 2010. Further, the decision to pick Scott would help to rehabilitate the image of the Republican Party, which receives little black support and whose policies have alienated black voters in recent years.
But would a Senator Tim Scott be a good thing for black people? Maybe not so much. But let’s weigh the pros and cons.
At first glance, Scott’s story is appealing and compelling. As he mentioned at the Republican National Convention this past summer, he grew up poor in a single-parent household and rose out of poverty to become a businessman, politician, and ultimately the first black Republican member of Congress from South Carolina since Reconstruction.
An African-American from South Carolina in the Senate would reflect the changes taking place in that state. Today’s Palmetto State is not the state of Civil War secession, nor is it the state of segregation or Strom Thurmond. And although it is a red state, President Obama won 44 percent of the vote. The Latino population in South Carolina grew 148 percent over the past decade.
Unlike the vocal Tea Party darling Allen West—the other black Republican in the House of Representatives, who lost his Florida seat in November—Scott has kept his nose clean by staying out of the spotlight and away from controversial remarks. Further, to his credit, he has stressed the need for the GOP to connect with voters “of all backgrounds.”
Nevertheless, DeMint wants Scott to succeed him, which speaks volumes about the implications of a Senator Scott for the black electorate.
DeMint is a Tea Party hardliner and a leader in that movement, with a mere 7 percent rating from the NAACP and the ACLU, indicating an anti-civil rights and civil liberties record. Scott is not quite as hardline as DeMint, but shares his right wing political views. In addition, Scott is an evangelical social conservative, pro-life and anti-gay marriage, and a Club for Growth and Tea Party favorite who just happens to be black. He even favored posting the Ten Commandments outside the Charleston City Council
As his voting record shows, Rep. Scott is a rank-and-file Republican who voted to repeal Obamacare. He sponsored legislation banning federal agencies from deducting union dues from their employees. In addition, Scott received a zero percent rating from the United Food and Commercial Workers Union and a 100 percent rating from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, indicating a completely pro-management voting record.