Republican South Carolina Governor Nikki Hayley has appointed Congressman Tim Scott (R - S.C.) to replace outgoing Tea Party darling Senator Jim DeMint (R - S.C.).
DeMint resigned his seat to take over the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. Scott, who was the only African American Republican in Congress, becomes the seventh African American senator in history. Scott will be the only African American in the Senate when he assumes office in January 2013 and the first African American senator from the South since reconstruction.
Scott’s appointment is a breath of fresh air in politics and African Americans should be proud of his success. His appointment indicates that once again the community is not monolithic economically, socially, or culturally.
Scott came to Congress as part of the Republican/Tea Party wave of 2010. He defeated Paul Thurmond, the son of former Senator Strom Thurmond. Thurmond is best known as the centenarian politician that conducted the longest filibuster ever by a lone senator in opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1957.
Scott has been known to defy all stereotypes associated with African American politicians. He is a staunch fiscal conservative and refused to join the Congressional Black Caucus. Scott’s rhetoric sharply differs from other African American conservatives, e.g., Herman Cain and Allan West. He steers clear of slave imagery and avoids buzzwords and inflammatory rhetoric offensive to African Americans. Scott has never accused African Americans of being enslaved or brainwashed and he definitely has never compared himself to Harriet Tubman or Abraham Lincoln.
Scott’s selection is an indication of the influence that the Tea Party has had on the Republican Party. Almost all of the diversity in the party can be attributed to the efforts of the grassroots movement, including the elections of Ted Cruz from Texas and Marco Rubio from Florida.
Scott, the Tea Party conservative, has a strong base in his native South Carolina. In 2012, he pulled in a number of former Obama supporters and outperformed Romney by four points.
The Washington Post wrote: “Scott’s conservative views and his raised by a hard-working single mom background strike a chord with Americans of every race.” On policy issues, Scott is solidly a fiscal hawk. In a speech to the anti-tax Club for Growth and Americans for Prosperity, Scott said, “We have a spending problem, ladies and gentlemen, and not a revenue problem." Regarding the country’s economy, Scott said it is “definitely and definitively on the wrong track.” Scott’s voting record on conservative issues has passed the litmus test. He voted to pass the Ryan budget, defund Planned Parenthood, and repeal the Affordable Care Act. In fact, Scott’s voting record makes him more conservative than Paul Ryan, Michele Bachmann, and Louie Gohmert. Scott is pro-life, opposes earmarks, and has come out in support of immigration legislation like that represented by the controversial Arizona SB 1070 law. In the past, he has supported infrastructure development and public works projects arguing that it would improve the economy.
Republicans reacted positively to the news. Senator Lindsey Graham (R - S.C.) said, “This is a day that’s been long in the making in South Carolina.” Sen. John Thune (R - S.D.), chairman of the Senate Republican Conference remarked that Scott would be a strong partner and lawmaker pursuing “policies that create jobs and spur economic growth.”
Governor Haley said, “It is important to me, as a minority female, that Congressman Scott earned this seat. He earned this seat with the results he has shown.”