While we cannot refer to Tim Scott as "Congressman-elect," it is highly unlikely that his Democratic challenger, Ben Frasier, will beat him on Election Day in November. Nevertheless, Scott will continue to campaign hard within the 1st Congressional District.
Given that Scott could be the first Republican African American from South Carolina elected to Congress since Reconstruction — a distinction he currently holds in the S.C. General Assembly — the path he has taken has not been a traditional one. He challenges the belief that African Americans should belong only to the Democratic Party and that African Americans who are Republicans are confused, opportunist, or misguided.
Speaking from a traditional sense, African Americans used to associate themselves with the Republican Party in part because Lincoln freed the slaves. It wasn't until the civil rights era that African Americans first aligned with the Democratic Party, and Southern whites switched to the Republican Party.
Given Scott's political career, I would not say he has been ill-advised. He has been fortunate to have a forceful and reliable kitchen cabinet that has provided collateral and opportunities to him and his inner circle. He has made the moves that have benefitted him in both politics and business, and thus, his political and professional career will likely continue to be successful.
I believe it is healthy to have people on both sides of the aisle that are African American. While ideology, values, ideas, and choices may vary, being of the same race does provide a basic mutual understanding, just as having the same experiences and being from the same gender can.
I cannot confirm or deny that he believes everything he has said during his campaign and in his campaign commercials. What I do know is that he has been preparing himself for higher office ever since he was first elected to Charleston County Council. One cannot and should not fault individuals who seek higher political office on their own terms or for having the desire to serve the public. If they feel they have something to offer as an elected official, they should not have to start at a local level or hold a particular office for decades. They should plot their course and take the courses of action that will guide them to where they want to be.
Given the situation Scott is in, working-class African-American professionals may look at the Republican Party as a viable option — not because the line is shorter, but so they can be a part of an organization that can provide them with the professional and political opportunities that Scott himself was given. If he wins in November, the Republican Party will have a national political figure that can help them be more inclusive, recruit good African-American candidates, and, frankly, be a model that would resonate with many people throughout the county and South Carolina.
Time will tell how Scott performs in the halls of Congress and on the national stage if he wins in November. His untraditional rise to this stature is something others can model. It says a lot about his conviction, vision, and ability to be focused and determined in order to excel in this game. It also speaks volumes about his supporters. To have an African American represent a district of mostly non-blacks shows a level of progress in South Carolina. However, there are still more whites who represent predominantly minority districts in this state. This could be the start of things to come as political lines are redrawn in 2012.
For Tim Scott, it is clear that the message mattered more than the party or the color of the messenger. For that, I congratulate him on being closer to becoming Congressman Tim Scott.