Update: Tim Scott defeated Paul Thurmond in last night's runoff election, making him almost a shoo-in to win his majority Republican district in November. Assuming he takes the general election, Scott will be the first black Republican in Congress since 2003, when Oklahoman J.C. Watts retired.
As I mentioned above, this is a truly momentous victory, not just for Scott, his team and other Republicans, but African Americans in general. It's also a welcome sign that, at least in some places, the racial tensions that have for so long tainted America's political dialogue are loosening. And if it can happen in South Carolina, where Paul Thurmond's father was governor when the state saw it's last lynching, it can certainly happen everywhere in due time.
The touchy-feely talk ends there, however. With Scott practically in office, it's now time to go at his policy stances — which earned Sarah Palin's support — with both barrels. Not only does Scott not believe in a woman's right to choose, he also supports slack gun laws and, as a state congressman, was a lead sponsor of a bill seeking to nullify federal healthcare reform in South Carolina. In fact, he's been known to call the health care bill "the madness," using the kind of language that most certainly got him the unwavering support of many Tea Partiers.
Tim Scott the successful candidate was a credit to all African Americans. Tim Scott the national lawmaker is seemingly a danger to that same group.
In tonight's primary elections, there’s no race more important to America’s black community—progressive or conservative — than that of the Republicans vying for South Carolina’s 1st Congressional seat.
Tonight, 44-year-old African American Tim Scott will attempt to defeat Paul Thurmond, son of notorious Dixiecrat Strom, who at the beginning of his career advocated vociferously against integration. "There's not enough troops in the army to force the Southern people to break down segregation and admit the nigra race into our theaters," he said in 1948. Six decades later, the elder Thurmond may roll over in his grave when his son is defeated by a black candidate, thus all but ensuring — due to the fact that the 1st district skews heavily toward the GOP — that South Carolina will get its first black Republican congressman since the Reconstruction.
Regardless of where you stand on the issues — and yes, Scott is far right both fiscally and socially — if you’d like to see people of color making true advances in America, you’ll be rooting for a Thurmond loss tonight.
I'm not sure I can fault you for wishing political defeat on anyone with the lineage of Paul Thurmond, whose mother, Nancy, was 43 years Strom’s junior when she gave birth to Paul’s oldest sister. Nevertheless, though it would indeed be nice to see an African American beat a product of one of history’s most infamous racists, tonight is about more than revenge. Instead, a Scott victory this evening would be a signal of real change, the very same change about which Barack Obama the presidential candidate spoke.
Red and blue don't matter here — black does. And just as Obama’s success in and of itself morphed America for good — no longer does one have to feel uncertainty when looking at a black child and telling them they can be president one day — Scott’s win would have a gravity to it even before he ever set foot in Congress. Never again could anyone say that black Republicans, specifically ones in the Deep South, have no place in politics. Never again could anyone say, as I did myself here, that black Republicans are slightly "oxymoronic."
Thinking about Tim Scott's run on the GOP ticket, I think of Greek life. Despite having been in one myself, I think fraternities are ridiculous, so much so that, in hindsight, I'd have never joined one. That said, I'd also find it reprehensible were anyone interested in joining a fraternity not allowed to do so because of his skin color. I disagree with the Republican Party about almost everything, not the least of which is its association with the Tea Party movement (which strongly supports Scott, by the way); even so, I couldn't help but applaud were its members to open wide their arms tonight, bridge more than 100 years of racial divides with their votes and nominate Tim Scott to represent them.
I won't be joining them anytime soon, but I'll be happy for them.