Of the many, many big stories which have been flooding the zone since Tuesday, one with truly historic connotations was the election of Tim Scott to his first full term in the Senate. This made him the first African-American elected to the Senate from South Carolina and the first black elected to a statewide office since Reconstruction. The portion of the story which really shouldn’t be big news, but clearly is anyway, is that he’s a Republican.
I say “shouldn’t” in this case because we’re supposedly all in agreement that America is the land of opportunity and anyone can rise as high as a good tug on their bootstraps will carry them. Sadly, this is American politics, so it has to be all about race if you’re talking about the GOP. But this is good news, right? I mean, those hateful old bigots in the Republican party may finally be crawling out of their caves if Tim Scott can be elected in the South. Let’s ask prominent civil rights spokesman James Clyburn how he feels about it.
South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn (R-S.C.) expressed little joy at the thought that then-interim senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.), an African American, is a member of the U.S. Senate.
Since Scott’s reelection Tuesday night, people have hailed the senator as evidence that the Republican Party can be more inclusive.
But in an interview with the Washington Post back in May, Congressman Clyburn thought this was nonsense.
“If you call progress electing a person with the pigmentation that he has, who votes against the interest and aspirations of 95 percent of the black people in South Carolina, then I guess that’s progress,” Clyburn told the Post.
This isn’t terribly different than when Mia Love had to go out and try to explain to the media that she wasn’t elected because she’s black. And it’s sad. But it also probably shouldn’t be all that shocking. This is, after all, the same James Clyburn who once refused to condemn people calling Clarence Thomas an Uncle Tom. Beyond that, Clyburn was out there before the votes were even counted this week blaming the losses of many Democrats – including Grimes – on their failure to figure out how to talk about race.
Congressman James Clyburn (D- SC) was on MSNBC this morning and said there have been Democratic candidates whose campaigns suffered this election cycle because they were not properly prepared to answer questions about race issues. Clyburn didn’t name any candidates in particular, but was jumping off a discussion about Kentucky candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes and the suggestion that when she and other candidates don’t say out loud they support the black Democratic president, it looks bad in the eyes of black voters.
What were these candidates supposed to do? Was Grimes expected to go out in front of Kentucky’s voters and say, “Hey, I really don’t like some of the President’s policies, but it’s really cool that he’s a black guy, huh?”
Clyburn still deserves great respect for the work he did in the earliest days of the civil rights movement, but he’s no longer helping things. You can’t keep insisting that you want everyone in the country to move into a post-racial era while continuing to drag race into every single discussion. If we focused on the content of the character of candidates rather than “the pigmentation that he has” we might actually make some progress.