A Political Exception
Sen. Tim Scott illustrates why it's good to venture outside of the right-wing media bubble.
Republican presidential candidate Senator Tim Scott went on The View Monday, and engaged in a surprisingly interesting discussion about race with co-host Sunny Hostin.
Hostin, who took issue with Scott’s long-stated belief that his personal achievements as a black American “disprove leftist lies” about systemic racism and limited opportunities afforded to people of color, argued that neither she nor Scott were representative of the African-American community.
“I’m the exception, right?” said Hostin. “You’re the exception. Maybe even Miss Whoopi Goldberg is the exception. But we are not the rule. And so when it comes to racial inequality, it persists. And five core aspects of life in the U.S.: Economics, education, health care, criminal justice and housing. At nearly every turn, these achievements were fought, threatened and erased, most often by white violence. You have indicated that you don’t believe in systemic racism. What is your definition of systemic racism? Or does it even exist in your mind?”
Scott responded in a way Hostin probably wasn’t expecting.
“One of the things I think about and one of the reasons why I’m on the show,” he said, “is because of the comments that were made, frankly, on this show, that the only way for a young African-American kid to be successful in this country is to be the exception and not the rule.” He added, “That is a dangerous, offensive, disgusting message to send to our young people today that the only way to succeed is by being the exception.”
Hostin doubled-down on her assertion that Scott is quite unique, reminding him that he was the first black senator elected in the South since the Reconstruction era ended over a hundred years ago.
Scott rejected the implication. “The fact of the matter is we’ve had an African-American president, African-American vice president,” he said. “We’ve had two African-Americans to be secretaries of state. In my home city, the police chief is an African-American who’s now running for mayor. The head of the highway patrol for South Carolina is an African-American… In 1975, there was about 15% unemployment in the African-American community. For the first time in the history, the country’s under 5% percent… So here’s what I’m going to suggest… The fact of the matter is that progress in America is palpable…”
If you haven’t watched the exchange, I would highly recommend doing so. I’m not saying this because Scott “owned” or “shut down” Hostin (as some right-wing media-outlets portrayed it), but because he did just the opposite. The senator remained amiable and respectful throughout, and put forth a strong, confident case that I dare say may have even struck a chord with some of the show’s liberal viewers (even if they didn’t completely buy into his thesis). And because he spoke so compellingly (as he often does), the clip has garnished a lot of extra attention for him and his candidacy.
In this respect, I think Scott is an exception… but not because of anything having to do with him being an African-American. He’s an exception because he’s a Republican leader who grabbed mainstream attention by engaging in a positive, good-faith debate with an ideological media-opponent… on a show that’s typically quite hostile to conservatives. He didn’t fear-monger, insult anyone, or toss out any other cut of vitriolic red-meat for the Republican base. Instead, by remaining positive and focusing on persuasion rather than an apocalyptic soundbite, he conducted himself the way many successful “big tent” Republican leaders used to.
It was an example of why I think Scott could be a formidable presidential candidate, if winning the primary (and later the general election) is indeed his goal. Unfortunately, I’m still not convinced that it is (at least not in the 2024 election cycle), despite his official entrance into the race.
Someone serious about defeating Donald Trump (the far and away front-runner) has to be open to likewise confronting the former president’s "dangerous, offensive, disgusting" messaging. It doesn’t have to be done in attack-mode; it can probably even be pulled off amiably, as Scott did with Hostin. But thus far, the senator has gone to extraordinary lengths to avoid doing so, and has instead taken every such opportunity to fawn over Trump’s presidential legacy. That suggests to me that he’s more interested in serving as Vice President this time around.
I certainly hope I’m wrong in my assessment, because after three blown election-cycles in a row, a shrinking Republican party sure could use a strong dose of uplifting “big tent” sensibilities. At worst, Tim Scott demonstrated on Monday how to do it.