Adolf Reed, a writer for the Nation and the Progressive, has column in the New York Times today in which he reflects on the elevation of Republican Tim Scott to the Senate. He is not enamored, to say the least:
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. (Emphasis added.)
The cheerleading over racial symbolism plays to the Republicans’ desperate need to woo (or at least appear to woo) minority voters, who favored Mr. Obama over Mitt Romney by huge margins. Mrs. Haley — a daughter of Sikh immigrants from Punjab, India — is the first female and first nonwhite governor of South Carolina, the home to white supremacists like John C. Calhoun, Preston S. Brooks, Ben Tillman and Strom Thurmond.
Mr. Scott’s background is also striking: raised by a poor single mother, he defeated, with Tea Party backing, two white men in a 2010 Republican primary: a son of Thurmond and a son of former Gov. Carroll A. Campbell Jr. But his politics, like those of the archconservative Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas, are utterly at odds with the preferences of most black Americans. Mr. Scott has been staunchly anti-tax, anti-union and anti-abortion.
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. I suspect that appointments like Mr. Scott’s are directed less at blacks — whom they know they aren’t going to win in any significant numbers — than at whites who are inclined to vote Republican but don’t want to have to think of themselves, or be thought of by others, as racist.
This is a classic damned-if-you-do and damned-if-you-don’t scenario. If the Republicans are all white, that is proof of the party’s inherent racism. If they make the effort to recruit like-minded minorities, well, those minorities (somehow) don’t really count. To put it another way, if the Tea Party really is as racist as Reed claims, then why did it back Scott over two white Republicans?
The real, underlying argument in Reed’s column is that African-Americans simply are not allowed (in his mind) to be conservative. He asserts flatly: “little … connects these (black Republicans) to mainstream black politics.”
Reed may be correct in that Scott’s appeal may ultimately be more towards those Republican-leaning whites than to blacks. But if most blacks reject him purely because their partisan allegiance to the Democrats pushes them in that direction, well, that is also evidence, in part at least, of the success of propaganda efforts like Reed’s.