You have got to hand it to the New York Times’ editors – they’ve got moxy. A Times opinion piece on Tuesday introducing their readers to the newest Senator from the Palmetto State, former Rep. Tim Scott (R-SC), speaks about him – and those with who share his political affiliation and skin color – in the terms you would describe a curious science project. In “The Puzzle of Black Republicans,” the Times summons all the subtlety of the Kool-Aid Man as they smash through the perception that the “paper of record” maintains a single shred of neutrality as they advance the notion that non-Democratic African-Americans are a curiosity to be examined like some newly discovered species of fish.
As many have noted, Scott represents the first black Republican Senator in the upper chamber since Sen. Edward Brooke (R-MA) was defeated by Sen. Paul Tsongas (D-MA) in 1976. He is the first Southern black Senator since Reconstruction and is only the seventh African-American to serve in the chamber ever.
“But this “first black” rhetoric tends to interpret African-American political successes — including that of President Obama — as part of a morality play that dramatizes “how far we have come.” It obscures the fact that modern black Republicans have been more tokens than signs of progress,” writes University of Philadelphia Prof. Adolph Reed Jr in the Times.
Reed notes that, if Scott’s selection by South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is part of an effort by Republicans to improve their standing among minority voters, it is likely to fail.
“Even if the Republicans managed to distance themselves from the thinly veiled racism of the Tea Party adherents who have moved the party rightward, they wouldn’t do much better among black voters than they do now,” writes Reed, employing his trademark subtlety.
However, the author writes that, in his opinion, the selection of Scott is not an effort to reward an accomplished legislator from a critical district, but to woo white voters who would vote for the GOP but “don’t want to have to think of themselves, or be thought of by others, as racist.”
In the author’s mind, the decision to embrace or reject Republicanism is entirely based in race and how others perceive your level of racial tolerance. If that was how Sen. Scott thought, he would probably not be a Republican. But, according to Professor Reed, the “puzzle” of black Republicans evidently cannot be solved by attempting to learn how they actually think.
The trope of the black conservative has retained a man-bites-dog newsworthiness that is long past its shelf life. Clichés about fallen barriers are increasingly meaningless; symbols don’t make for coherent policies. Republicans will not gain significant black support unless they take policy positions that advance black interests. No number of Tim Scotts — or other cynical tokens — will change that.
The timing of this piece is curious – it comes one day after the National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar writer published a well-received piece on how the Tea Party’s influence has increased the GOP’s diversity dramatically. The Democratic party, meanwhile, “boast relatively few statewide minority officeholders.”
Today, the Republican party claims the only black Senator, as well as the nation’s two Hispanic and Indian-American governors. Not to mention the many other notable minority politicians who call the GOP home. Kraushaar makes a point that Romney/Ryan ticket, a relic of a pre-Tea Party era, may end up being viewed as a quaint as future Republican tickets become irreversibly more diverse.
That is a threat to Democrats who claim to be the singular champions of the rights of minorities. Hence, the Times’ conspicuously timed assertion that the Republican party’s diversity is nothing more than tokenism.
Read the full piece via The New York Times
h/t Jim Geraghty
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