Op-Ed: Tim Scott pick is first step for GOP
Tim Scott pick is first step for GOP
by Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, II
The flawed hypothesis that Rep. Tim Scott’s appointment as a new senator from South Carolina will serve to attract African Americans to the GOP is certainly more hype than whole. As the only African American from the South to serve in the Senate since Reconstruction, Scott’s appointment this week is monumental for South Carolina, and for the Republican Party. Make no mistake: he is a first-rate statesman who rightfully deserved maximum consideration from Gov. Nikki Haley. Scott is an honorable man, whose conservative political ideology and voting history seem to be in complete harmony with those of the majority of South Carolinians. At a time of partisan acrimony ad nauseum, Scott is by no means a “Hill raiser.” And while he made the decision not to join the Congressional Black Caucus, Scott is respected by all of its members, not withstanding his conservatism, which is leap years beyond our members and our constituents.
Many African Americans are confounded by the consistently popular but baseless assumption that a candidate’s skin color is the determining factor in our political consideration. However, it is important for Republicans to understand their appeal to African Americans is not contingent on supporting African Americans for public office. To be sure, there is value in such racial inclusion. But the value lies not only in the outreach — endorsing black Republican candidates, or buying political commercials on black media outlets — but the efforts to reach beyond antiquated campaign tactics to the black community that matter more in determining our political affinities. Yes, black people were proud of their support for Barack Obama, but there was no spontaneous enthusiasm until they became familiar with his political positions on the campaign trail. Originally, most African Americans supported Hillary Clinton.
During the 21st century, our nation will witness incalculable changes that will reorder American politics. The GOP discussion of racial inclusion is decades-old, but it has not been enough to show any signs of wear. It would be an exorbitant, mindless expectation to think the GOP will hold its own without alterations and transformations. Only policy and ideological modification will bring black Americans to take their first serious look at the GOP since FDR captured their political loyalty in the 1940s.
It is in the long-term political interest of African Americans that the Republican Party becomes a viable alternative. I also believe there is a great deal of interest among African Americans in the policies of fiscal restraint. However, this interest does not trump the promotion of inclusionary social policies that respect the diversity of our country. With more inclusionary policies and unrestricted access to leadership, the GOP may see increased loyalty from African Americans and from other minority communities.
The appointment of a man like Rep. Tim Scott certainly does not hurt Republicans with African Americans. Some black Americans embrace conservative principles, as Scott does. However, they remain a small minority. Contrary to what many Republicans seem to believe, black voters could support the party with the thickest commitment to racial amity and the willingness to reduce racial friction to a fraction as they do with the Democratic party.
Confucius, the much celebrated Chinese sage once said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” My hope is that with this historic appointment, the GOP will keep stepping.
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver is a Democrat from Missouri and chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.