NYT Op/Ed: Tim Scott is a "Cynical Token," and No Symbol of Progress

Posted: Dec 19, 2012 1:55 PM

Remember, it isn't "progress" unless the Left approves.  On Monday, I wondered how race-obsessed liberals would react to a conservative, Indian-American, female governor appointing a conservative, African-American product of a single-parent home to the US Senate.  In the South.  To great fanfare and virtually universal applause on the Right.  In short, not well.  From today's repulsive New York Times column by Ivy League professor Adolph Reed, Jr:

When Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina announced on Monday that she would name Representative Tim Scott to the Senate, it seemed like another milestone for African-Americans. Mr. Scott will complete the term of Senator Jim DeMint, who is leaving to run Heritage Foundation. He will be the first black senator from the South since Reconstruction; the first black Republican senator since 1979, when Edward W. Brooke of Massachusetts retired; and, indeed, only the seventh African-American ever to serve in the chamber. 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.

Reed briefly acknowledges Governor Haley and Senator-designate Scott's remarkable life stories before arguing that their inspiring biographies aren't relevant:

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.  

If you're struggling to keep your racial politics scorecard up to date, Reed is arguing that Tea Partiers propelled Scott to his 2010 victory over two white guys in order to mask their own "thinly veiled racism."  (Wouldn't this broad conspiracy at least qualify as thickly veiled racism?)  It doesn't seem to occur to this erudite professor that conservative voters might simply support dynamic conservative candidates, regardless of skin color.  This would be the opposite of racism, of course, so ulterior motives must be assigned.  Allow me to circle back to the "thinly veiled racism" line for a moment.  I poked fun at it above, but it's no laughing matter.  Reed is casually smearing millions of his fellow citizens via lazy, malicious assertion.  The Tea Party's primary messages are "we're taxed enough already," and "stop bankrupting the country."  Are these racist ideas?  These Americans have enthusiastically backed candidates -- ranging from Sen. Ron Johnson to Sen. Marco Rubio to Sen. Ted Cruz to Rep. Tim Scott -- who share these principles.  They've also worked hard to support Rep. Allen West and Mia Love, both of whom were defeated by white male liberals.  Meanwhile, their contempt has been directed at everyone from the president (black) to the Senate Majority Leader (white) to the former House Speaker (white) to some members of the Republican establishment (overwhelmingly white).  How these facts reveal some barely-concealed racial animus isn't readily obvious, and Reed doesn't even attempt to explain himself.  In academia and the pages of the Times, it's just a given.  

Reed goes on to imply that Republicans' House majority is illegitimate, thanks to widespread gerrymandering -- apparently unaware of liberal analyses that have concluded that only a handful of House GOP victories in 2012 can be chalked up to partisan redistricting.  (Republicans hold a 33-seat majority).  He's also curiously silent on what happened in places like Illinois, where aggressive gerrymandering by Democrats wiped five Republicans off the map.  The professor concludes by writing that Tim Scott's "true test" will come in 2014:

For Mr. Scott, the true test will come in 2014, when he will presumably run for a full six-year term. As Mr. Obama has shown, the question is not whether whites are willing to vote for a black candidate, but whether black candidates can put together winning coalitions (no matter their racial makeup) and around what policies. I suspect black South Carolinians will not be drawn to Mr. Scott. 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.  

For a distinguished political science professor who's taught at Yale, Northwestern and Penn, Reed sure is sloppy.  Scott will serve as an appointee until 2014, when he will presumably run in a special election to serve out the remaining two years in Jim DeMint's term.  He wouldn't be eligible to seek a "full six-year term" until 2016.  But Reed is too preoccupied by calling names and protecting his racial-ideological turf to be bothered with such picayune details.  Perhaps soon-to-be Senator Scott believes that his policy positions actually do "advance black interests."  His principles and beliefs have certainly advanced his interests, no?  Does he not count, professor?  And how have politicians in places like Detroit managed to "advance black interests" over the decades?  But then, those people are black liberals, and therefore not "cynical tokens," which is what truly matters -- governing outcomes be damned.