The following post has been updated.
Two weeks after South Carolina’s Jim DeMint left the Senate to serve as president of the Heritage Foundation, Governor Nikki Haley has appointed Rep. Tim Scott to fill his seat.
Scott has only served one term in the House of Representatives, but he’s already made a name for himself as a rising star in the party. He defeated the son of Strom Thurmond to win his spot in Congress, and has gone on to earn praise from Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, and other prominent national conservatives.
What’s unique about Scott, of course, is that he’s one of the few African American Republicans to hold elected office. He was one of two black House members in the 112th Congress, and beginning in January, will serve as the only African American in the Senate, the first to ever come from South Carolina, and the first to come from the South since Reconstruction.
Not only will he take seat once held by arch-segregationist Strom Thurmond, but He’ll represent a state that in 1860 seceded from the Union after affirming slavery and declaring blacks “incapable of becoming citizens.”
When DeMint left the Senate, Governor Haley said that she was looking for someone who could win reelection and continue to serve. It’s worth noting that Scott fits the bill — a popular conservative, he’s well-positioned to hold the seat for as long as he wants it.
It should be said that for all of the real problems the GOP has with diversity in terms of its organization and its candidate pool, the party does an excellent job of elevating the minorities that do find themselves in its tent. Scott joins Bobby Jindal, Nikki Haley, Marco Rubio, Suzanna Martinez, Brian Sandoval, and Ted Cruz in a growing pool of high profile, conservative nonwhites.
But none of these people will solve the problem faced by Republicans, which is that minority voters aren’t interested in conservative policies. Indeed, Scott embodies this problem perhaps more than the others: He supports policies that can only be described as truly reactionary. He proposed a bill to kick families off of food stamps if one member went on strike as part of a union — he represents progress. And he called for the impeachment of Obama over the debt ceiling.
Indeed, the same conservatism that drives GOP enthusiasm for figures like Scott also drives actual nonwhites away from the party. It’s good that the Republican Party is eager to elevate minority faces, but they’ll do little to help win minority votes — particularly ones like Scott.