Should blacks fear or cheer Tim Scott in the Senate?
Scott supports immigration legislation similar to Arizona’s S.B. 1070, and he co-sponsored Rep. Steve King’s anti-immigrant birthright citizenship bill—which would have eliminated automatic citizenship to children born in the U.S. by requiring at least one parent be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
Last year, Scott suggested President Obama should be impeached if he tried to raise the debt ceiling without congressional approval.
In many ways, Tim Scott parallels Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. As a Supreme Court nominee twenty-one years ago, Thomas was offered by his backers as a living Horatio Alger success story, a black man who grew up in poverty in rural Georgia and pulled himself up by his bootstraps. Thomas has since been a disappointment to many on the black community, aligning himself with the court’s conservative majority and voting against civil rights and affirmative action.
And yet, while Thomas believes affirmative action rendered his Yale law degree worthless, his nomination by President George H.W. Bush was widely interpreted as a cynical form of race-based affirmative action. The seat once occupied by the civil rights giant Thurgood Marshall was filled with a black conservative hostile to civil rights, who arguably was not the most qualified conservative, and not even the best black conservative candidate for the job.
Similarly, the evidence suggests Tim Scott’s political views—the core values of the Tea Party—would alienate most African-Americans, who make up over 28 percent of the population of South Carolina. These are the views that have made the Republican Party a nearly exclusively white party, on purpose. Running in a conservative district that is three-quarters white, Scott has had no reason to appeal to black voters. There is no evidence he would buck his party or moderate his views in the Senate.
If Rep. Scott becomes the next senator from South Carolina, he will be the first black Republican Senator since Edward Brooke (R-Massachusetts). A moderate Republican with liberal social views, Senator Brooke was a champion of civil rights who fought against housing discrimination, defended the extension of the Voting Rights Act, and supported affirmative action.
But Tim Scott is no Edward Brooke. At this point, a white moderate Republican such as former Gov. Mark Sanford is a better bet for black America. Sanford, who once held Scott’s House seat, is considering running for DeMint’s Senate seat in 2014.
Follow David A. Love on Twitter at @davidalove