We Republicans aren’t known as a very diverse bunch, which is something I’ve been trying to change for a long time. That’s why I was so excited to hear that Nikki Haley, the female, Indian-American governor of South Carolina, has decided to appoint Tim Scott (an African-American) to fill the senate seat vacated by retiring Sen. Jim DeMint.
For those of you who don’t follow politics closely, there’s a little irony here that you might enjoy.
About 12% of the American population is black. Since 1936, when FDR proposed the soup of social programs we call the New Deal, black voters have reliably supported Democratic candidates up and down the ballot. In 2004, for instance, Democrats could claim almost 90% of the black vote in the presidential election, and in 2012 a poll of African-Americans gave Romney 0% support, prompting the Republican to give a major speech to the NAACP. This chart from FactCheck.org lays out the historical trend clearly:
As you might expect, a high party affiliation has translated into a high number of black Democratic officials. In the modern era (1900 to present), 34 of 39 black representatives and 3 of 4 black senators have been Democrats. With that kind of history, you may have been as surprised as I was to learn that South Carolina representative Tim Scott, the first black senator in the upper chamber since Roland Burris retired in 2010, claims the Republican party as his home.
Or maybe you weren’t. After all, the GOP knows it has an image problem with minority voters. If you’re cynical, you might think Scott’s appointment was more about getting a token black man on the roster than picking someone who’s well qualified for the job of United States Senator. Republicans know this, and were quick to nip such speculation in the bud. As Scott Wong reports:
In her remarks Monday, [Governor Nikki] Haley, who made history as the first female Indian-American governor, said repeatedly that she chose Scott based on his merits alone. She hailed the small businessman as someone who has focused on jobs; understands local issues, like the deepening of Charleston Harbor; and has fought to get government spending under control.
“What I will also tell you, and it is very important to me as a minority female, is that Congressman Scott earned this seat,” Haley told reporters with Scott by her side. “He earned this seat for the person that he is. He earned this seat for the results he has shown. He earned this seat for what I know he is going to do in making South Carolina and making our country proud.”
Hard to argue with that sentiment, especially when you look deeper into Scott’s voting record, which I’ve linked to here.
The Republican party needs to perform a serious re-evaluation of its messaging to minority voters, that’s for sure. But it’s not fair to say it’s an intolerant place at all. Conservatism has a natural appeal to minority candidates, many of whom have been forced to live by the conservative tenets of individualism and hard work to get to where they are today. Governor Haley and Senator Scott are excellent reminders of that fact, and it’s great to see them getting some press for a change.