Thursday, September 03, 2009

Tim Scott and moving beyond the politics of race

For years now the conventional wisdom in South Carolina Democratic and political science academic circles has been that the rise of the Republicans to power in South Carolina was based upon an undercurrent of racism. They point out Strom Thurmond’s opposition to segregation that they claim led him to become a Republican in 1964 and come up with the “Southern strategy” for Richard Nixon in 1968. They also point to the referendum on the Confederate Battle Flag in the 1994 Republican Primary as the moment Democrat Bubba voters turned Republican in South Carolina.

There is some basis for their points. However, the old arguments about the South Carolina GOP and race are changing in the form of State Representative Tim Scott. Scott became the first African American Republican elected to the General Assembly since Reconstruction in 2008, winning a Republican primary in a heavily white district. Now, Scott has his eyes on the Lt. Governor’s office, and raised $150,000 instantly, making him a leading contender for the Republican nomination. It is going to be difficult for Democrats to talk about racism in the South Carolina Republican party if voters nominate an African American for the state’s second highest office.

Indeed, it seems as if some sort of reverse racism is applied to African Americans who are conservative. Why is it expected by Democrats and pundits that an African American will vote Democrat knee jerk and tow the liberal line? Why cannot an African American be free to believe, espouse, and run on conservative ideals? Isn’t it racist to assume an African American votes and thinks Democrat because of the color of his skin?

It is VUI’s hope that the election of Barak Obama, a liberal Democrat as President, and the rise of other African Americans to Republican prominence, such as RNC Chair Richard Steele, and South Carolina’s Tim Scott moves us beyond judging a man or woman’s politics by their skin color. Hopefully, such developments will move us to be a people, of all races, with differing ideaks, who will be allowed to espouse and even run on those ideals without any retribution from the pundit class because we don’t have the right skin tone for what we believe in their eyes.

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