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…

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…

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.