Commentary: Tim Scott Is the Clarence Thomas of Congress

The Scott appointment couldn't come at a better time to provide Republicans the window dressing of diversity.

Posted: 12/17/2012 01:09 PM EST
Keith Boykin, Tim Scott

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley today announced that Rep. Tim Scott will become that state's new senator, replacing retiring Sen. Jim DeMint.

What's most historic about the announcement is that Scott, who will be the only Black Republican in the new Congress, will also be the first Black senator from the South since the Reconstruction era after the Civil War.

Unfortunately, this is not a cause for celebration for most African-Americans.

First, you have to understand the history of Black Republicans. Mississippi elected two Black senators, both Republicans, in the 1870s, and that was it for nearly a century. Massachusetts elected Edward Brooke, a moderate Republican, in 1966.

Then all the attention moved to Illinois, which elected Carol Moseley Braun in 1992, Barack Obama in 2004, and appointed Roland Burris in 2008.

But Tim Scott is not like any other Black senator we've ever seen before. Mississippi Sens. Hiram Rhodes Revels and Blanche Bruce were both Republicans at a time when the Republican Party was the anti-slavery progressive party of Abraham Lincoln. And Brooke was a moderate Rockefeller Republican who supported civil rights in the 1960s and '70s.

Sens. Braun, Obama and Burris in Illinois were all progressive Democrats. Tim Scott, on the other hand, will be the first Black conservative senator. You might think of him as the Clarence Thomas of the U.S. Congress. And like Thomas, he comes to his new position because of affirmative action.

Scott is an unmarried, 47-year-old anti-union, anti-choice, anti-gay Tea Party conservative. Ironically, his appointment makes South Carolina the only state in the union with two unmarried senators. Lindsey Graham is the other.

Scott has been a vocal critic of America's first Black president. The first bill Scott offered in Congress was to repeal Obamacare. Although South Carolina has one of the worst records in the nation for health-care coverage, Scott called the Affordable Care Act a "job killer."

And Scott once threatened to impeach President Obama if he raised the debt ceiling to pay for the bills that Congress had already racked up. Never mind that Ronald Reagan raised the debt ceiling 18 times in his presidency. Scott bought into the conservative myth that the national debt was never a real problem until President Obama came into office.

Other prominent Black Republicans, Allen West, Mia Love and Vernon Parker, all lost their congressional bids in last month's election. But Tim Scott will skip the election process, for now, and will today become, by executive fiat, the GOP's most vocal and prominent African-American. (I bet Artur Davis is stewing somewhere because he moved to Virginia instead of South Carolina.)

For a party that has struggled to connect with Blacks and people of color, the Scott appointment couldn't come at a better time to create the window dressing of diversity. But trust me, Tim Scott is not your grandfather's Black Republican.

Scott is new to national politics. Though he's only been in Congress less than two years, he still seems, in my judgment, to be qualified to hold the office of U.S. senator. Yet no one should doubt that Scott rose to his new post so quickly largely because he's African-American. I don't have a problem with that. I support affirmative action. But I wish Republicans would finally admit they do too, when it suits them.

Keith Boykin is a New York Times best-selling author and former White House aide to President Clinton. He attended Harvard Law School with President Barack Obama and currently serves as a TV political commentator. He writes political commentary for BET.com each week.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

 

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