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Monday, December 10, 2012

How the SC GOP is leading the way on diversity

I wrote this weekend that I believe Gov. Nikki Haley should appoint former Gov. Mark Sanford to the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Jim DeMint at the end of this year.

I've explained why in this column, so I won't go back over that. And for the Democrats who are quick to remind everyone of Sanford's major personal failing, I'm sure many of them are among the crowd who said they'd be happy to re-elect Bill Clinton to a third term as president if they could, despite his major personal failing. I took Sanford to task when it happened and had face-to-face conversations with him about it. But that's past. And while he was clearly wrong, it seems as though he wasn't simply led astray by the body part that gets too many men in trouble, but maybe his heart. He plans to marry the woman who was his mistress; Clinton did not. That does not excuse his behavior but does help put it into perspective.

Any way, if Haley instead chooses Rep. Tim Scott, as many political observers expect, it would mean that South Carolina will have among the most diverse political leadership in the country.

I get that other states have more diverse delegations in the House of Representatives, but when it comes to statewide offices, we would have an Indian-American in the governor's mansion and an African-American in the Senate. Currently, there are no black people in the Senate and only a few blacks have been voted in as governor, of any state or to the Senate - ever.

What's more fascinating is that this will be coming from the Republican side of the aisle, not from the Democratic Party. Of course, the Democratic Party can boast of a more diverse voting base and more diverse leadership in the U.S. Congress overall, as well as being the first party to have chosen from a woman and a black man to represent it in the presidential election. The cynic will note that a true push for diversity at the highest levels of office in this state can only come from the GOP, given South Carolina's red status and because it is not becoming more diverse as fast as other parts of the nation, meaning the GOP will be in charge here for the foreseeable future.

All of that is true, but a Scott appointment would give the Republicans in South Carolina a lot to talk about, when it comes to diversity. And that's not a little thing.

Now, if I can only get the GOP to take some advice I've been trying to give it for years now ...

What this shows, though, is that diversity alone is not the primary goal. There are policies and rhetoric that need to be seriously dealt with also if the GOP wants to attract more minority voters, something the party must do if it wants to remain viable in coming national elections as the country becomes more diverse.

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