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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Senator-to-be Tim Scott is black like me - NOT a black token - but he won't be getting my vote

I'm just getting to this because I was out of the office when Gov. Nikki Haley appointed Rep. Tim Scott to the Senate seat being vacated by Jim DeMint, who will be the new president of the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation.

I've since read a couple of columns and heard a few comments describing Scott as a political token, downplaying the significance of what he represents. I couldn't disagree more 

Here is one of those columns: The puzzle of black Republicans

Here is what I'm sure of: Gov. Haley did not appoint Scott because he was black, though she and Scott both understand the symbolism his appointment represents.

He is the first black man in South Carolina history to serve in the U.S. Senate and is the first black man from the Deep South since the Reconstruction era to hold such a post. No matter the politics, no matter anything else, that makes his appointment extremely significant, one that I will celebrate and honor in the way I did Barack Obama's rise into the White House.

Yes, Scott's move into the Senate, in terms of the state's history, is on par with Obama's rise in Washington on a national level. South Carolina left the union first and fired the first shots in the Civil War, primarily to defend its right to own people who looked like Scott.

South Carolina has an ugly history of racial divisions of all sorts at all levels and still suffers in a variety of ways because of those sins.

Legislators long ago weakened the governor's power because they feared a black man could one day sit in the Governor's Mansion. Yes, they enshrined their racism into our state constitution - and that fact continues to have real impact today.

South Carolina had one black person in its congressional delegation before Scott was elected to represent the First Congressional District a couple years ago - and that is Rep. Jim Clyburn from a minority-majority district.

Given all of that, there is no logical way to downplay the significance of Scott's ascension. And that it is being done by our first governor who is neither white nor male from a party which is having all sorts of diversity problems on the national level makes it all the more astonishing.

Scott is not a token. He represents real progress. No matter Scott's qualifications or political leanings, he would never have gotten this appointment in this state until just recently. That's a fact. That should not be downplayed because you disagree with his politics.

Let me say that another way: Not too long ago, if Scott had the same qualifications and same conservative political views, he would have essentially been ineligible for this appointment because his skin color would have been deemed to be too dark.

The writer of the column at the link above misses that because he is too focus on so-called race-based politics, the kind that assumes that all black people or most black people - or true black people - must adhere to a certain set of policies and goals and politics, which is simply not true. It is possible to be genuinely black and genuinely Republican, genuinely black and genuinely against race-based affirmative action, genuinely black and genuinely whatever you want to be. It is the small mind that either refuses to or simply can't accept that reality.

On another note ...

I wrote not too long ago that though I believed Scott was qualified, I thought former Gov. Mark Sanford would have been the better choice. And I still do. Scott is a good, logical replacement for DeMint because the 2 men hold a lot of similar views. I voted against DeMint twice - and would have again - and voted for Sanford twice because I believe his conservative credentials are deeply held and consistent, yes, but not so rigid that he would join the carpet-bombing on social issues that too many hard-right conservatives have been engaged in for decades now.

Some question that assessment based on Sanford's antics in the House of Representatives - often the lone no vote - and in Columbia, when he consistently bumped heads with his own party. That maybe true, but the thing that led to his political downfall, an illicit affair that made him leave the state in secret, also humbled him, which was evident in his final year of office. I say that matters, and matters a lot. And I won't hold that huge mistake against him forever - just as I no longer hold Bill Clinton's mistakes against him.

Another thing that needs to be said: Many of the people who have been claiming that black people lined up behind Obama because he is black have turned an illogical corner. Now they are complaining that those same black voters - Democratic voters - are not ushering Scott into the Senate with a great deal of fanfare, even though he is black.

Here's one big hint as to why they aren't: Scott is a staunch Republican conservative and most black voters today are not.

If Scott comes up with real solutions for the gun violence that doesn't just happen in spectacularly horrible incidents such as those from last Friday, but every day in too many area in South Carolina -  often times including black men on both ends of the barrel of the gun - and helps fight inequality and educational gaps and make sure the rights of citizens to vote are not curtailed, , or at least say he is going to try, I suspect many more voters who look like him would not mind supporting him.

It's not his skin tone that will make the difference to black voters, but his voting record.

Instead of complaining, the reaction of many black people to Scott's appointment should cause others to rethink their simplistic, off-base assumptions about black voters.

I won't hold my breath, though.

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