GOP now home to nation’s only black senator

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 lays out the historical trend clearly:

Black ID fact-check

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.

Posted in The Modern Conservative
9 comments on “GOP now home to nation’s only black senator
  1. Jim Hull says:

    The problem isn’t with the Republican Party; it’s with the Black community. If you’re Black and you express conservative values, you’re scorned as an Uncle Tom and/or branded a traitor to your race. Yet African Americans have a large conservative streak in their views, especially on inner city violence, drug use, unwed parents, and religion. Until Black conservatives can speak openly without feeling intimidated, their community won’t get the wide range of representation it needs.

    • I’ve heard the notion from a number of sources that being black and being Republican are mutually exclusive, possibly because of the GOP opposition to the civil rights bills of 1964 and ’65. While that was clearly a mistake, Democrats had supported Jim Crow laws just a few years earlier, which is yet another irony.

      I’m not black so there’s not much I can do to sway the prevailing mood of the black community to conservatives, besides stick to my principles and message better, but your point is well heard. Thanks for stopping by!

    • I must disagree with Jim Hull. The GOP cannot just sit around holding on to the idea, “if we wait long enough they’ll eventually realize they agree with us.” They could use a big helping of humility and listen to what various minority groups need and want. They need to crackdown hard on racism and bigotry inside the party, particularly directed towards gays and Latinos. William F Buckley cracked down hard on anti-Semites and other extremists like the John Birch Society in the GOP; some of that spirit is needed now.

      The GOP can’t go around insulting every non-white voting block and expect votes from them. Appointing a black man to the Senate is nice, sure. However minorities are looking for true respect, which starts by adjusting conservative ideas to where they will help minorities. Insulting them and promising to get rid of all the government services they want will not do it.

      • Don’t conservative ideas already help minorities? The messaging (as wooden as it sounds) is what needs to change to reflect that. I think we’re speaking on different parts of the same wavelength though – something has to change.

      • Conservative ideas can and do help minorities. The problem is the GOP has become the anti-government party, not the conservative party. The GOP should figure out what different minority want by asking them and create market-oriented solutions to their problems.

      • Not to needle here but I’ve been thinking about this for a while and that’s a very vague prescription. I, however, haven’t been able to do much better. The GOP’s all about market-oriented solutions – what specific proposals could we enact to build minority support?

      • I don’t think the GOP can start there. They have to first make themselves marketable- getting back to what you said earlier. That’s step one. No minorities are going to listen to the GOP when the perception is that they dislike minorities.

        As far as ideas go, look at the education debate. There is that new movie “Won’t Back Down” about school choice in minority neighborhoods. If the GOP was trusted by African-Americans they could show why school choice is better for them.

      • School choice – that’s a good example I hadn’t thought about in a while. Our new Governor (Pence) made that a big theme in his campaign. Hopefully he can make some meaningful progress on it over the next 4-8 years.

      • Yep. And lets not forget about healthcare. The GOP came up with Obamacare for Pete’s sake! If they hadn’t thrown a fit- if they would have contributed- they could have taken credit for universal healthcare!

        Honestly (and ironically), that’s what made me more interested in honest conservative ideas: Barack Obama’s embrace of them (to a degree, of course).

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