The news that South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley will name Tim Scott as Jim DeMint’s replacement in the Senate should not come as a surprise. The GOP, while disdainful of the so-called identity politics played by the Democrats, is actually masterful at the art of identity politics. For example, recall George H.W. Bush’s nomination of Clarence Thomas to replace Thurgood Marshall on the Supreme Court, or the carefully choreographed stage production of Republican National Conventions featuring Condi Rice and Colin Powell.
In some ways conservatives should actually be disappointed with the selection of Tim Scott as Gov. Haley had more conservative alternatives to choose from. A political science dataset known as NOMINATE ranks every congressperson along a single ideological continuum with 1 being the most liberal person in the House of Representatives and 435 being the most conservative. Where was Tim Scott? 417. Yes, Tim Scott is so conservative he can legitimately consider more than 200 Republican colleagues in the House as not conservative enough.
However, South Carolinians elect such extreme conservatives that there are three additional Republicans from the Palmetto State that are even more conservative than Scott: Jeff Duncan (424), Trey Gowdy (425) and Mick “Koch” Mulvaney (431). If Haley wanted to nominate the most conservative congressperson to replace DeMint, who, by the way, ranks as the 98th most conservative senator, than she should have picked Rep. Mulvaney. This indicates that the selection was about more than just raw ideology.
First, Haley wanted someone identifiable with the Tea Party. Check.
Second, it is no secret that the GOP is desperate for more faces like Bobby Jindal, Nikki Haley, and Marco Rubio. What the GOP sorely lacks is a face like Tim Scott’s. The GOP had two African Americans elected to the House in 2010. When those two were added to the GOP’s other black representatives, they had a total of…two. This compares to the Democrats 36 African American representatives. However, one of those two, Allen West, could not win a second term. So, out of 535 total congresspersons, the GOP had a grand total of 1 African American.
Given the vice-like grip the Democratic Party has on the black vote, and no willingness by the GOP to actually compromise on issues to urban (read: black) voters, Tim Scott should get used to being the front man for the GOP’s minority outreach efforts. If he needs advice, he should ask just ask J.C. Watts.