I just finally got around to reading a Politico story (“S.C.’s Scott: Tea Party Talent Scout”) about Rep. Tim Scott (R-SC) and how he’s a bridge between the Tea Party and the establishment GOP—and how he has become a kingmaker as the South Carolina GOP presidential primary approaches. Halfway through the article, it mentions that Scott is black, and then for the rest of the article, that’s all it is about.
Hello, Politico. Tim Scott was elected nearly a year ago. It’s not “news” anymore. Can the media please stop marveling over the fact that South Carolina Republicans elected a black man? Their obsessing over it is little more than an attempt to keep antiquated stereotypes alive and to dig around and see if they can’t get someone to say something mildly racist. It’s offensive.
Granted, at times it’s appropriate to mention a certain Republican is black, and I wish black media would give more coverage to black Republicans to provide more examples that it is possible—and preferable—to be both. But liberals, refusing to see blacks as anything other than subpar victims in need of Democrat handouts and control, take it as an affront that any black could be a Republican. When the liberal media attempts to probe the topic, their disbelief and even racism seeps through their words.
Let’s take a look at a few of the prime examples from the Politico piece. Here’s the first mention that Scott is black:
Scott, who served 13 years on the Charleston County Council as the first black Republican elected anywhere in the state since Reconstruction, consistently downplays the historical importance of his popularity in the state’s political scene.
Of course Scott would “downplay the historical importance of his popularity.” For one, Scott is a rather modest man, not given to braggadocio, so he downplays much of his qualities and achievements, especially “popularity.” He prefers instead to praise others that have contributed to his success, such as his mother.
But what in the world is the writer, Marin Cogan, trying to say: “historical importance…of popularity”? How is it historically important to have a black man be popular? Important for what?
It subtly, insidiously implies: “Scott downplays that long-time racist whites now like him”? Forget the vast majority that ignored his color and liked his positions. We’re all slimed with the racist taint.
Perhaps that’s one reason Scott “downplays” her framing of his popularity. Maybe Scott knows that there’s a goodly more people in the room that care more about the content of his character than the color of his skin.
Scott won a primary in a massively large field of heavy-hitting establishment GOP names and hardcore Tea Party newcomers. This, in an election year in which the Republicans in this neck of the woods were practically foaming at the mouth to not just halt but reverse every bit of damage inflicted by Barack Obama and the Democrats. There was no way in hell anyone was going to do something so stupid as to turn our congressional seat over to someone because of the color of his skin.
But it is undeniable that a part of his success is rooted in his seemingly preternatural comfort operating in the most conservative of South Carolina’s political circles, ones that were until recently seen as largely exclusive to whites.
That quote angers me: “[conservative political circles] that were until recently seen as largely exclusive to whites.” As if the South Carolina GOP has had a sign on the door saying “No blacks allowed.” Anyone, regardless of their skin color, has been welcome to enter the door. No one has been excluded in many decades, from either party.
Scott’s skin color does make him visually stand out at GOP functions—but with about as much import as a redhead standing out. It’s not as if people are whispering, “oh look, a black man is here!” Cogan would not have been incorrect to say the conservative SC circles have been “largely white,” leaving out the “exclusive to.” The GOP still is significantly white, but not because whites want it to be. The only time I think about Scott’s race is when thinking of ways we conservatives can make inroads into the black community, fight against the abhorrent liberal taunts of “Uncle Tom.”
Yet, that’s exactly what Cogan has subtly done. It is true that Scott has great comfort operating in conservative circles. Of course he does. He is a conservative. But it is offensive to say he’s “preternaturally comfortable” mingling with conservatives. That’s calling Scott an Uncle Tom. Translation: “That black man is unnaturally comfortable hanging out with whites, joining their exclusive club, acting like he’s one of them.”
It lingers on the tips of the tongues of most everyone who searches for an explanation for his popularity.
First Cogan says Scott downplays his being black in a predominantly white group. Now she says all the whites aren’t eager to mention it either, though “it lingers on the tips of the tongues,” as if we racists are just one second away from blurting some racist statement about Scott.
If she felt she detected any interviewee reservation to discuss Scott’s skin color, it was probably because color is not a foremost factor in our support of him. It surely crossed their minds that she might attempt to paint them as a racist no matter what they said.
It’s hard to know for sure what Cogan encountered, but I would be mightily disappointed in my fellow conservatives if “most” of them felt Scott’s race was the reason for his popularity.
Let’s see those “tip of the tongue” quotes:
“Obviously, having an African-American representative elected from the South, it’s unique, it’s an oddity, because the South is criticized for being so anti-black and anti-African American. It’s refreshing,” said Tommy Hartnett, who formerly held Scott’s seat.
I can see that response being given to a reporter who asks something along the lines of “how does Scott’s race affect his popularity.” However, I doubt that would be the answer to the question of “why is Scott so popular” without being prompted about race. If asked why Scott, Sen. Jim DeMint and Rep. Joe Wilson are popular, a conservative would not rave about the latter two’s conservative principles but attribute Scott’s to race.
Plus, Barack Obama’s election showed there are some people stupid or gullible or liberal-guilt-ridden enough to vote for someone because of their race. As a pure political calculation, therefore, race can play a factor in selecting a candidate. I’m sure some GOP politicos take that into consideration in putting together a slate. But in a place that’s supposedly such a hotbed of racism, wouldn’t you run the risk of losing just as many votes as you gain? Especially if it’s the Republicans that are supposed to be the racists? Isn’t that risky for them to run a black man?
No. It’s about character and principles and fortitude.
“We have a not-so-pretty history with regard to race. For conservative and Republican activists who unfairly get deemed with the stereotype of being racist, to have a guy who is incredibly conservative and just so happens to be black, it’s part of the appeal,” said a South Carolina Republican activist.
That quote just infuriates me. Quite interesting the “activist” was embarrassed enough by it that he or she didn’t even want to have his or her name attached. The second sentence of the quote is true enough if you clarify it. “[Scott’s color] is part of the appeal” if you are looking for accolades and approval from liberals or the media. They’re the ones continually trying to hold us down and foist the rancid stereotype on us, even if it belongs in the era of black-and-white news footage.
But what’s outraging is the first part: the “we” have a “not-so-pretty” race history. I am sick and tired of being forced to wear the hair shirt of dead and dying generations. My peers and younger generations aren’t living in the past. We’ve long moved on and aren’t stuck living in the flickering images of 50 years ago. Our part of history may not be perfect, but it’s getting things done, without being consumed by race.
Leave me out of your smears about your ugly history. Talk to me about something I’m responsible for. Something I created or advanced. Don’t play the reporter’s game and wring your hands and affirm her stereotypes. If it’s all about race for you, say so, but put your name on it so we’ll know who to avoid.
The quote that most disappointed me, however, was from Rep. Trey Gowdy, a solid freshman GOP congressman from upstate SC:
“Although he doesn’t talk in those terms, he is historically significant,” said Gowdy, who noted that he dreams of taking his children to visit Scott in the governor’s mansion some day. “I’m proud of the fact that Tim Scott’s the face of our congressional delegation and, in many respects, the future of the conservative movement in South Carolina.”
There is indeed a historical fact of note about Scott: it’s not that he’s popular among conservative whites, but that he was the first GOP black elected since Reconstruction in SC.
The rest of the quote I’m hoping dearly is taken out of context. That Gowdy wants to have his kids visit a Gov. Scott not because he’s black, but because he is a politically principled conservative. Likewise about being the “face” and the future. I hope more blacks do join the GOP, do join the fight. I think the Tea Party movement has been a wonderful way to bring in more faces of color. The more diversity of color, the less insulting coverage of “oh, look there’s a black or brown person in that conservative [racist] group. why in the world are they there? do they need help?”
Out of everyone quoted in the racist fishing expedition, the one that most agrees with me—the one who knows better than anyone else exactly how Tim Scott feels about and experiences the race versus character issue—was Tim Scott himself:
“At the end of the day, it’s what you do that matters to my voters, not what you look like,” Scott said. “I’ve seen the ugliness that comes with a racially divisive world, but I’ve experienced very consistently that if you represent what you are more than what you look like, people respond to it.”
It is some small salve that the quote most able to be deemed racist came from the sleazy South Carolina Democratic Party chairman, Dick Harpootlian:
Of course, not everyone is enamored with Scott’s brand of post-racial politics. “He’s popular among Republicans, absolutely. He’s someone they can roll out who is a tea party African American. How rare are they?” said Dick Harpootlian, chairman of the state’s Democratic Party. “If you are willing to forgo any sense of conscience, or right or wrong, you can be a superstar in the Republican Party.”
Interesting how that quote brings us back to the original story, long since abandoned. What started as a story about a congressman rising in statewide power ends up interviewing all the white folk about what they think about him being black. Seems to me that Politico really wanted to do a story about “lookee here at all these southern white conservatives (i.e., racists) having a black man tell them who to vote for,” but they just didn’t have the courage to so blatantly frame it that way.
From the paragraph that mentions Scott is black to the ugly Harpootlian quote, the whole racial half of the story, the non sequitur into 2010 breaking news that SC elected a black GOP congressman, could be removed from the article without losing any context or information in the original story.
It would have addressed Scott respectfully as a principled man in his own right, capable of being powerful and successful solely because of his ideology, behavior and character. To inject the odd racial aspect revealed more about Politico and the writer than it did about South Carolina politics.