Let’s play a little game I like to call Way Back When.
Senator Tim Scott, are you listening?
Way Back When the thought of having an African American man elected as a representative of your state would get as many hearty laughs as an episode of the Andy Griffith Show. Way Back When you would have to eat your lunch at separate lunch counters. Way Back When you would have to drink out of a separate water fountain. Way Back When you would attend inferior schools with outdated textbooks and materials. Way Back When people were actively trying to put systems in place to prevent you from participating in a representative democracy.
Well, I guess that last one doesn’t seem too far fetched, actually.
This past week, Senator Tim Scott failed miserably at the Way Back When game. As the first African-American senator from the south since 1881 and the first African-American representative from South Carolina since 1897, he, along with other prominent members of the Republican Party, received an invitation to attend the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. As someone who grew up in poverty, but was able to make something of himself via his hard work and a dedicated mother working 16-hour days, it seemed only natural that Scott would be in attendance for the historical event.
Unfortunately, Tim Scott was nowhere to be found.
As news media began to comment on the clear lack of Conservative presence at the event, the right wing spin machine quickly went to work claiming that the event was some liberal invite only and that no Conservatives were invited. Scott, entering the public eye for his conspicuous absence, also claimed that he too didn’t receive an invite. However, news media quickly confirmed that Scott, along with the entire Republican Congressional caucus, did, in fact, receive invites to the event but declined. Some, like Eric Cantor, were too busy dealing with oil lobbyists. Others, like Tim Scott ran into the problem of having to make a decision fearing the wrath of his constituency: The Tea Party.
And we all know how the Tea Party feels about Black folk.
Yes, herein lies the problem for Scott, the interim senator from the Palmetto State. As someone who was appointed by Tea Party darling Nikki Haley, Scott knows that it was Tea Party support that helped him become the replacement for departing senator Jim DeMint in 2011. He owes his allegiance to a group of people who see him as a second class citizen, a feel-good story that his constituents use to convince themselves they aren’t inherently racist. However, for most of them, people with the complexion of Scott are not only scary, but also inferior. The majority of them openly wish that Way Back When had never ended.
This is the deal with the devil that Scott has made. Rather than pay tribute to the man who enabled him to become a representative and then a senator, Scott has to bow to the Tea Party powers that be or else face the threat of being primaried, most likely by someone who needs a little more suntan lotion. Scott, like every single member of his party, chose not to attend the event for fear of alienating his base of Tea Party voters. This left an entire political party absent from a moving tribute to one of the most influential figures of the last century.
Hey Republicans, how’s that minority outreach working out for you?