While Tim Scott has been elected only twice to the U.S. House from South Carolina, his elevation to the Senate to fill a vacancy is not a case of tokenism by the Republican Party.
The first black senator from the GOP in 30 years is not only a favorite of tea party conservatives but served in Charleston city government for more than a dozen years before his election to the House in 2010.
Nevertheless, as Scott’s Senate colleague Lindsey Graham said, if the walls of the Carolina capitol could talk, they would remark on the circumstances that brought a black senator to one of the state’s highest offices. The first blow of the Civil War was struck in Charleston harbor in 1861, but times have truly changed.
Scott succeeds fellow Republican Jim DeMint, who left the Senate to become head of the Heritage Foundation. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley named Scott to fill the vacancy until a special election can be held, but Scott is considered likely to win the November 2014 race.
In fact, it is Graham — an occasional maverick in the GOP — who has long been thought as vulnerable to a primary challenge from the right in 2014, when he plans to seek re-election to the Senate.
South Carolina political observers were quick to note that at the announcement of Scott’s appointment, speakers heaped praise on Graham as well as Scott. The speakers included DeMint, informal head of Senate conservatives until his resignation becomes effective at the end of the year.
Should Scott do a good job in the Senate, his appointment certainly adds luster to the national Republican Party, which has not had a black senator since Edward Brooke of Massachusetts. The GOP struggled in the presidential election not only with black voters but with Hispanics, according to exit polls. Only three GOP senators are women; the Democrats have 17 women in the Senate.
The idea that the GOP is a caucus of white males is certainly changed.