by Kevin Williams
Politisite readers are already aware that a new U.S. Senator recently took office, but unfortunately most of the United States citizenry is not. In case you don’t know, the new Senator is Tim Scott (R-SC) and he was appointed by his home-state Republican Governor Nikki Haley to replace Senator Jim DeMint in the U.S. Senate. In case you do not know, Senator Scott is African American (or Black if you prefer) and this is characteristic is very important as it will make his legislating career a fascinating one to follow.
To add to Mr. Scott’s uniqueness, he is the first person of color to serve South Carolina as a Senator and more importantly will be the first Black Republican Senator since Edward W. Brooke (R-MA) left nearly thirty-five years ago. Granted, Mr. Scott was “appointed” and not “anointed” as a Senator but he will still have immense pressure on him to be more than just the junior Senator from South Carolina. He will have to serve as the tent-pole and divining rod for the Republican Party’s efforts to increase its diversity and to improve its chances of long-term survival. No offense to Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, but Senator Scott will need to be the face of the immediate future of the GOP if it wants to survive several more decades and not become the Whig Party of the 21st Century.
However, the occurrence of an African American serving in the United States Senate was not celebrated noted by much of our national Media… even though Senator Scott will be the only Black person in the “most deliberative body in the world.” Let alone that he is a Republican, which is not the norm for about ninety-percent of African Americans. The post-racial world we are supposed to live in actually must actually exist since Senator Tim Scott is (at this time) barely known outside of South Carolina, Washington D.C. and the political blogosphere.
Newly-minted Senator Scott is a start for the Republican’s suddenly forced mission to expand and renew their Party by tapping on the shoulder and elevating more people of color to higher positions of office. This is something that former Senator Edward W. Brooke (MA-R) calls for at the end of our film, FEAR OF A BLACK REPUBLICAN, but our Republican Party leaders (with a few exceptions) have rarely heeded or acknowledged such calls. Just as former Lt. Governor Michael Steele becoming Chairman of the Republican National Committee was a huge step forward publicly for the GOP, Mr. Scott must be looked upon as positive change and an opportunity for the future. After years of futility, Mr. Steele’s focus on Republican outreach efforts achieved great results in Chris Christie becoming a Governor, Scott Brown becoming a Senator and both Allen West and Tim Scott going to Congress.
As a White Republican Committeeperson serving in a city (Trenton, NJ) with a majority African American population, a large Hispanic contingent and a Party ratio of fourteen Democrats for each Republican, I look upon Tim Scott’s Senatorial appointment as an opening to change our Party for the better. If Senator Scott will be used by the Party as a focal point of change, the Republican Party has a chance to start filling the Big Tent with a more diverse crowd and may be able to begin stemming a steep decline into Whig Party-status.
While making our documentary film for over six and one-half years, we heard State and Local GOP leaders say time and time again that “African Americans will never vote for us” or “We can’t win in cities.” At the same time, we rarely saw any test of these leaders’ hypotheses or their self-fulfilling prophecies. Without changing its core message and using a new deliverer like Tim Scott, the Republican Party could change its destiny and the course of our country. Any success in this endeavor would require the Republican Party to follow up on Mr. Scott’s efforts by showing up and speaking to all voters on its own terms, rather than letting the Democratic Party define it for another generation.
Given the Presidential Election results and the major soul-searching and scape-goating going on within the highest levels of the Republican Party, we can expect a long process in finding out which direction the GOP will go in. There are many policy and campaign strategies to re-examine, but no decision may be more important than on the Republican Party’s future investment in money, time and resources in Urban and Minority communities. Mr. Scott can be of immense help in future GOP decision-making if the Party leadership seeks his counsel.
Time’s a wasting and as a forty-ish White Urban Republican, I scan the horizon and hope that my Party will find its binoculars very soon and ask Senator Scott what GPS device he recommends.