How will Tim Scott help Republicans in the Senate?

Opinion

Share The GrioShare The Grio

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley just announced her selection of Rep. Tim Scott, a black conservative Republican, to fill the Senate seat being vacated by Jim DeMint.

After the proper trouncing the Republican Party received in the 2012 election, Will Scott help a beleaguered and embattled Republican Party that wants to clean up its grumpy old white man image problem?

The evidence suggests Senator Scott will be useful to Republicans, but only up to a point.

After all, Scott is black, but he is a member of the Tea Party and holds the same extremist positions as his predecessor, who is headed to the Heritage Foundation. And while those positions are popular with the white hard right-wing base, they are turning off everyone else.

At first glance, we should not lose sight of the symbolism here. As Gov. Haley said, it is “a historic day.”  Tim Scott will become the first black senator from South Carolina, and the first black senator from the South since Blanche Bruce (R-Mississippi), a Reconstruction-era lawmaker who served from 1875 to 1881.

Scott is only the seventh African-American senator, and the first black GOP senator since 1979, when Edward Brooke (R-Massachusetts) completed his second term in the Senate.  Brooke was a liberal, pro-choice Republican who championed civil rights and affordable housing, and often challenged the leader of his party, President Richard Nixon.

In stark contrast to Brooke, Scott is a darling of the Tea Party, whose conservative political views are indistinguishable from DeMint, if not more extreme.  His record is one of the most extreme in the Congress, earning a lifetime score of 100 percent from the NRA Political Victory Fund, 100 from the National Right to Life Committee, and 90 from the John Birch Society.

Scott introduced legislation to cut off food stamps to entire families if one family member strikes against an employer.  He sponsored a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, receiving a consistent zero rating on health issues, disabilities and children’s health.