Tim Scott, Daniel Cameron and the business of selling souls

OPINION: What did Tim Scott and Daniel Cameron gain in exchange for their recent political failures?

Republican Presidential Candidates Attend First In The Nation Leadership Summit
U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., speaks during the 2023 First in the Nation Leadership Summit on October 14, 2023 in Nashua, New Hampshire. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.  

Tim Scott is not a sellout. 

Daniel Cameron is not a traitor.

As a saved, sanctified, Holy Ghost-filled child of the true and living God, my grandmother taught me that I should never speak ill of the dead or the living. Because I couldn’t fully grasp this concept, I would sometimes offer hypothetical situations of the most evil people I could think of — from racist murderers to people who brought store-bought pound cakes to funeral repasts. My grandma’s response was always the same; she just cited a Bible verse followed by the phrase: “May the words of the true and living God come to pass.”

“What if someone burned down our house?” I’d ask. 

“Bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you,” she’d respond. “Pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you … Matthew 5:43. May the words of the true and living God come to pass.” 

My grandmother was truly a living testimony. But once, when someone brought up the name of Mr. Johnson, a local Black attorney, I witnessed the temporary loss of her Holy Ghost. “Damn him,” she blurted out. When she saw my sisters, cousins and me sitting with our mouths agape, she unapologetically quoted a scripture about being diced into pieces, going to hell and — I’m pretty sure there was something about teeth. Then she folded her arms, sat back and said seethingly: “May the words of the true and living God come to pass.”

For years, I wondered what Mr. Johnson had done to my grandmother but I was always afraid to ask. Aside from my grandmother’s use of profanity, I was also delighted to inadvertently discover my grandmother’s “spite prayer.” To this day, when my sisters and I use slanderous language to describe someone we can’t stand, we will follow it up with my grandmama’s Jesus-approved postscript.

This is a prayer for Tim Scott, Danel Cameron and other Black turncoats …

May the words of the living God come to pass.

Sellouts and traitors

Tim Scott is not a sellout.

Scott had already rejected the existence of systemic racism and declared that “America is not a racist country” long before he launched his presidential campaign. Scott had already singlehandedly harpooned the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and sidestepped any criticism of Trump’s call to arms for white supremacist domestic terrorists. Long before he tossed his hat into the presidential sweepstakes, South Carolina’s junior senator threw his ancestors under the bus and hurled the history of his people onto the trash heap.

Still, referring to Scott as a “sellout” implies that he has a soul to sell. 

Daniel Cameron is not a traitor. 

The Kentucky attorney general had already embraced Donald Trump, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and the most powerful white supremacists in America when he lost his bid for the governorship. Even before he won the GOP nomination, Cameron had already overlooked police brutality and tried his best to suppress the evidence needed to prosecute the officers responsible for the death of Breonna Taylor. He served as Mitch McConnell’s legal counsel, sided with anti-maskers and “successfully spearheaded the confirmation processes for conservative federal judges.” Cameron is so pro-white and anti-democratic, that the most anti-Black, authoritarian president in modern history shortlisted him for the Supreme Court.

But calling Cameron a traitor is wrong. It implies that he turned against the people he once supported. 

Since he graduated from law school and interned for one of the most conservative judges in America, there is not a single moment in his career that Daniel Cameron has stood up for Black people. Similarly, Tim Scott gained a toehold into politics after Black voters in his hometown rejected him. Scott cannot sell out Black people because he never had their support. 

Tim Scott didn’t have to trade his soul for a Senate seat. Daniel Cameron did not double-cross Black people. Even though these Black conservatives did not have anything to sell or a constituency to betray, it does not mean they did not have to sacrifice something in exchange for their political ascendency. In fact, they were on the losing end of the biggest finesse in Republican politics

They tried to sell us.

The long-held belief that Black people will blindly vote for a Black candidate is one of the biggest myths in all of politics. Republicans and Democrats alike believe that Black voters are so dumb they will disregard history, party affiliations and policy preferences to cast their ballots for any old well-spoken negro with a flag pin. It’s why a newbie like Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla, can leapfrog his more qualified party members and gain a few votes for speaker of the House. It’s why well-meaning Democrats thought ex-police-chief Val Demings could win a Senate seat during the middle of a national reckoning on police brutality. It’s why white virtue signalers love to tell you they voted for Obama. 

But when it comes to conservatives like Cameron and Scott, Black skin is not valuable enough of a commodity to trade for power and political glory. To successfully rise in the ranks of the GOP,  Black conservatives have to do more than deny the existence of racism; they must validate their conservative credentials by proving that they are willing to sacrifice Black lives.

For years, Scott was one of the few members of his party to champion police reform. Since 2015, he tried to pass the Walter Scott Notification Act, which required law enforcement agencies to report police shootings and deaths in custody to the federal government. But when he had the chance to actually do something about police brutality, Tim Scott traded the lives of Black people for the support of the right-wing National Sheriff’s Association and a re-election endorsement from GOP Jesus, Donald Trump. Scott didn’t just say, “America is not a racist country,” he reiterated his beliefs on a racist right-wing website immediately after a white supremacist mass shooter slaughtered 10 Black people.

Daniel Cameron didn’t just defend the police officers involved with Breonna Taylor’s death; he planned to hire more police officers as governor, pay them more money and give them more protection. Cameron believes that the Second Amendment is sacrosanct — a word that means “most sacred or holy” (to be fair, Cameron never met my grandma). He also doesn’t seem to care that Kentucky has the 11th-highest Black infant mortality rate in America and the 12th-highest Black poverty rate

Yet, Daniel Cameron claims he is pro-life.

The worst part of this anti-Black finesse is that Cameron, Scott and their fellow negro conservatives don’t actually get anything in exchange for the Black lives they toss into the fire. Cameron will never be governor. The closest Scott will ever come to smelling the presidency is burying his nose in Donald Trump’s taint area. Byron Donalds will never ever ever ever ever ever ever be speaker of the House. Even though Scott and Cameron have less combined charisma than a department store mannequin, their political failures aren’t due to their spinelessness or their lack of charm. The reason their political ceiling is so low is simple:

White people won’t vote for them.

In one of the reddest states in America, Daniel Cameron lost by a larger percentage than the previous Republican gubernatorial candidate — who just happened also to be the least popular governor in America. Among Republican voters, Scott trailed in the polls behind “someone else” and “don’t know.”

They weren’t selling out Black people; they were giving our lives away for nothing. 

Thoughts and prayers

When my grandmother died, our living room filled with well-wishers who came to mourn her death, including Mr. Johnson. 

Before I was born, Mr. Johnson had represented the family of a white man who was high on cocaine and drove headfirst into my grandfather’s taxicab, killing him. Mr. Johnson didn’t even win the case, but my grandmother never forgot that Mr. Johnson asked around the neighborhood to see if my grandfather drank alcohol (he didn’t). 

In my opinion, Mr. Johnson was doing his job. But to my grandmother, the suggestion that my grandfather was drunk while on the job was an unpardonable sin. As far as my grandmother was concerned, he had consciously tried to slander her family and sully her husband’s legacy.

When I heard the full story, I flipped through my grandmother’s Bible to see if I could find the spite verse she used whenever Mr. Johnson’s name came up. When I finally found it, it was underlined in pen and highlighted.

But if that evil slave should say to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ and he begins to beat his fellow slaves and to eat and drink with drunkards, the true master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not foresee, and will cut him in two, and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Matthew 24:48-51

I don’t hate Daniel Cameron or Tim Scott. They are simply doing their jobs. In their cases, erasing the lives of Black people is just part of their job descriptions. But …

May the words of the true and living God come to pass. 

Michael Harriot is an economist, cultural critic and championship-level Spades player. His New York Times bestseller Black AF History: The Unwhitewashed Story of America is available everywhere books are sold.

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