Tim Scott is proof of how far we've come 

Breaking Barriers

Politics are unpredictable, and few things in life are certain, but you heard it here first: Tim Scott will represent South Carolina as its next Congressman for the 1st District.

Why do I believe this? For the Republican Party, Scott represents a tantalizing glimpse of what could happen if it truly began to diversify at the candidate level. Scott is an African-American Republican who has a demonstrated conservative voting record, yet enjoys considerable respect and credibility in the black community. That rare combination allows him the unique opportunity to become for the Republican Party what Michael Steele was supposed to be: an ideological and political counterweight to President Obama who is able to criticize without further exacerbating the Republican's race problem. That ability, his track record, and the manner in which he could appeal to black voters in a way that most Republicans cannot makes him the one to beat in the pending Republican primary.

In case you have not heard, Republicans have a race problem. At the last National Republican Party convention held in St. Paul, Minn., in 2008, less than two percent of its delegates were black. Although George Bush was able to capture 11 percent of the African-American vote during his last election victory for president, President Obama erased those gains nationally by garnering 93 percent of the African-American vote in 2008.

The Republican selection of Michael Steele as its first African-American national party chairman in 2009 was a tacit admission that it needed to diversify. Efforts by the media to portray the Republican Party as a shrinking, largely homogeneous party that shunned minorities were at least slowed by having Steele as the face of the party nationally. Unfortunately, Steele has been a disappointment by almost all accounts. His tendency for public gaffes, self promotion, and poor management skills have led to the departure of many Republican donors, not to mention a lack of confidence in his leadership among the party elite.

There have been no black Republicans in the United States Congress since J.C. Watts, the black congressmen from Oklahoma who retired in 2002. The lack of prominent black statesmen at the national level is a considerable impediment for the Republican Party in its efforts to attract black voters. Scott could single-handedly promote the image of a newer, diverse GOP in South Carolina in a way guys named Campbell or Thurmond simply could not.

The fundraising numbers thus far support Scott as well. As of April 20, Scott had raised $245,875 and still had $226,576 on hand as of March 31, according to the Federal Election Commission. Carroll "Tumpy" Campbell had raised $215,740, but as of March 31, he only had $86,911 left. Charleston County Councilman Paul Thurmond had raised $205,249, but as of the last reporting cycle, he had only $128,388 on hand. This type of fundraising prowess augurs well for Scott, as do the prominent conservative endorsements he seems to ring up daily. Already he has been endorsed by the conservative anti-tax group Club for Growth, House Speaker Bobby Harrell, and two of the most prominent local leaders of the pro-life movement, Anne Badgley and Cyndi Mosteller. These endorsements bolster Scott's credibility and greatly increase his chances of collecting votes in areas that heretofore may never have considered supporting a black candidate.

In a nutshell, regardless of your politics, that is the promise that Tim Scott represents to many. His candidacy breaks down barriers in a way that shows how far we have progressed racially as a state. He offers the opportunity for a relatively homogeneous party to show diversity. And he would present a grounded, ideological counter to President Obama while neutralizing the race issue.

I cannot say that I agree with Tim Scott politically, but I can say that I have never met a more genuine person with a truer conviction about his beliefs who also cares about the community. Those qualities transcend black and white and will make him a formidable congressman.


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