Back To Top

 Opinion: A word of advice to Republicans — don’t sleep on Tim Scott
February 26, 2023

Opinion: A word of advice to Republicans — don’t sleep on Tim Scott

  • 0

Editor’s Note: John Avlon is a CNN senior political analyst and anchor. He is the author of “Lincoln and the Fight for Peace.” The views expressed in this commentary are his own. Read more opinion at CNN.


Don’t underestimate Tim Scott.

This week, the South Carolina Republican Senator embarked on the obligatory Iowa listening tour that precedes a possible presidential campaign. He offered up a well-scripted speech in Des Moines and then led the Polk County Lincoln Day dinner, testing out the themes that could define a candidacy.

John Avlon

If you glanced at the headlines, you might think that he was selling a warmed over form of Trump’s “combative vision,” served with a side order of DeSantis’ bitter culture war assaults.

That would be a mistake. Because if you actually listened to Scott’s speeches, you’d hear a very different pitch to voters. “For America to be at our best, we have to work together,” Scott said. “We must come together on a common ground, built on common sense.”

Yes, Tim Scott is an unapologetic conservative. He is a person whose religious faith genuinely defines his personal journey and his politics. That may or may not be your policy preference. But his vision is fundamentally optimistic, a rebuke to grievance politics on the left and (implicitly) the right.

He is not fanning the flames of fear about “American carnage.” He is not wielding the American flag as a weapon to bludgeon people who look different than him. Amid a wave of strategically induced CRT panic, he is also not trying to whitewash American history to pretend it is an unadulterated story of perfection.

At the Lincoln Day dinner, he told the story of how his beloved grandfather, born in 1921, was taught to step aside on the sidewalk to let a white man pass and never make eye contact. This was deep in the Jim Crow South. “So when I talk about our history, I’m not whitewashing it,” Scott said. But he added that his grandfather told him “you can be bitter – or you can be better. I chose better.”

As the only Black Republican Senator, Scott sees his remarkable rise as evidence of American exceptionalism and our success in forming a more perfect union. And as inherently unique as it is, Scott’s story is not one that can simply be dismissed out of hand. But he is ready to have his patriotism attacked.

“For those of you on the left, you can call me a prop, you can call me a token, you can call me the N-word, you can question my Blackness, you can even call me ‘Uncle Tim.’ Just understand: Your words are no match for my evidence. The truth of my life disproves your lies.”

That’s a good line. It’s also a hard truth rooted in his personal experience. And he is unsparing in his belief that activists try to use our nation’s historic mistakes as a wedge to “bring more power and more resources to their progressive agenda.”

You can contest this all day long with stats and facts about systemic racism and its expression in everything from police abuse to housing. Scott might even agree when it comes to certain policies. But his place on the stage as a Black Republican US Senator preaching the need for national unity to achieve national greatness goes a long way toward repudiating the white identity politics that fueled much of Trump’s rise.

To be sure, he is still trying to appeal to a party that fell under Trump’s spell – and Scott does go too far with the play-to-the-base red meat for my taste at times.

For example, his talk of how left-wing Democrats are deliberately trying to “destroy America” fundamentally undercuts his overall rhetoric about the need to unite America. And he is part of the conservative crew that is dancing around the outright denunciation of Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn an election on the basis of a lie – a stance that will look as cowardly in the future as it may look pragmatic now, from the perspective of someone running for president as a Republican.

But trying to slap a cynical Trump-derivative bumper sticker on Tim Scott does him a disservice. Because Scott’s optimistic pitch for possible presidential campaign is evidence that there is a lane outside of Trump, Trump Lite and Never Trump. It’s evidence of evolution beyond an obsession with identity politics and the grievance industrial complex. And that’s good for the future of Republican Party and good for the republic.

Prev Post

Live updates: Russia’s war in Ukraine

Next Post

Manchester United wins first trophy since 2017 with victory over…


Leave a Comment

Related post