In the wake of the November elections, the Republican Party found itself accused of being too white to win national elections in modern America. But after events in South Carolina today, the only black US senator is a Republican. South Carolina’s newest senator is far from alone as a minority serving in major political office on the GOP side.
Rep. Tim Scott’s appointment to the US Senate is historic in many ways. He is the first black Republican to serve in the US Senate since 1979 and the first black Republican to represent the South in the Senate since the 1880s. He rises to the Senate representing South Carolina, a state once by Sen. Strom Thurmond and Fritz Hollings, both of whom supported racial segregation as Democrats during a period when only Democrats could win statewide anywhere in the South. Thurmond later switched to the GOP.
The Republicans have already been accused of engaging in tokenism in Scott’s appointment, but the fact is that if Scott is a token at least he is not alone. Currently the Republicans have two Indian-American governors. Gov. Bobby Jindal is in his second term governing Louisiana. Gov. Nikki Haley, who appointed Scott to the Senate because she said she believed he would serve well and win re-election, is in her first term governing South Carolina.
Farther west, the only two Hispanic governors currently serving are both Republicans. Gov. Susana Martinez is in her first term governing New Mexico, where she enjoys high approval ratings. Gov. Brian Sandoval is serving his first term as governor of Nevada.
It’s also worth pointing out that all of the above won their current offices, meaning they won Republican primaries before going on to win statewide majorities, two of them in states that were in the old Confederacy. Jindal has won statewide twice. Tim Scott has a very good chance of returning to the Senate after winning statewide in South Carolina in 2014.