Race and Ethnicity
Tim Scott
Sen. Tim Scott

Watching Tim Scott's announcement speech, I was struck by how differently I would have responded to his message 10 years ago. In 2013 I wrote: "It's to their credit that Republicans are obsessed with getting the government to address its unconscionable and unmanageable debt, freeing up the productive private sector to create economic growth and maintaining the nation's military preeminence."

Ten years on, I'm sadder and (hopefully) wiser. As the intervening years have shown, the GOP has abandoned good faith altogether. Kevin McCarthy and his band of nihilists wouldn't recognize good faith if it hit them on the fanny. The Republicans who are beating their chests for "fiscal discipline" were obedient lapdogs when Trump increased deficits by 50% — and that was before COVID. In total, they grinned along to an additional $7.8 trillion in national indebtedness. Did I mention that they quietly raised the debt ceiling three times during Trump's term?

Sen. Tim Scott was along for the ride on all of this, so when he objected on Monday in his presidential campaign announcement that we have "spent decades getting deeper and deeper into debt to the Chinese Communist Party," it rings a little hollow.

It's not that there is nothing to like or admire about Scott. He did rise from poverty. His grandfather picked cotton. When he says, "My family went from cotton to Congress in one lifetime," he has every right to be proud. And while he wasn't exactly a profile in courage in calling Trump out, he wasn't a total sniveling coward either. After the Charlottesville "fine people on both sides" disaster, he said: "What we want to see from our president is clarity and moral authority. And that moral authority is compromised. ... There's no question about that."

When asked about raging inequality, Scott talks about education, praising the work of entrepreneurs like Eva Moskowitz, whose Success Academy schools have made such a dramatic difference in the lives of poor kids. "The quality of your education shouldn't depend upon the accident of your ZIP code," he declares. Even after years of bitter disillusionment with conservatives and (especially) Republicans, I still believe that our schools are a disgrace and reforming education is the best route to reducing poverty and hopelessness. Maybe I wouldn't use the expression "less CRT and more ABCs," but OK, it's politics. Let that pass. One cheer on policy.

I would also offer one cheer on message. During his announcement speech, Scott insisted that "We must show compassion for those who disagree with us," arguably not the most congenial sentiment for the perpetually roiled GOP base that has moved from laughing at cruelty to cheering on brutality.

Scott's boosters hope that his message of patriotic optimism (he even used Reagan's "city on a hill" cliche) will be an implicit rebuke to the dark turn the party has taken with Trump, to which one can only say, lots of luck. A party that makes Kyle Rittenhouse a pin up, dangles pardons for convicted murderers of Black Lives Matter protesters, and describes the January 6 rioters as citizens engaging in "legitimate political discourse" doesn't seem to be pining for a return to sunny optimism.

Does Scott have one unique advantage here? Sure. Republicans do love Black conservatives. I used to think Republicans lavished so much love on Black candidates and others (like Condoleezza Rice) because they were keen to prove that they harbored no racism in their souls. But since 2015, it looks different. The mask has slipped so often: Trump's Charlottesville outrage. The "s—-hole countries." The smearing of immigrants. A senator said Democrats favor reparations for "the people who do the crime." Marjorie Taylor Greene and Tucker Carlson mainstreamed the "great replacement" theory.

So Scott's pitch that his life is proof of America's virtue and lack of racism seems discordant. It seems less an affirmation of patriotism than a cynical play for Republican votes: "I'm the candidate the left fears the most." Translation: I'm the Black candidate who affirms your racial innocence. "We can choose victimhood or victory," Scott intones. "Grievance or greatness." Sure, there are people on the left who wallow in grievance, but what fair-minded person can fail to notice the victimhood and grievance that billows from every GOP outlet? "I will be the president," Scott promises, "who destroys the liberal lie that America is an evil country." Seriously? It's more like he will be the candidate who erects the biggest straw man to attack.

Is this unjust to Scott? Perhaps, though someone once said, "No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up." Here is Scott, the breath of fresh air, the neo-Reaganite, on the events of January 6: "The one person I don't blame is President Trump." And here is his 2022 response to Maria Bartiromo on whether he'd be open to the VP spot with Trump: "I think everybody wants to be on President Trump's bandwagon, without any question."

If you're keen to prove that America is not an evil country, maybe start by ruling out running with or even voting for a truly evil figure.

Mona Charen is Policy Editor of The Bulwark and host of the "Beg to Differ" podcast.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

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Tuberville Sputters Openly Racist Remarks On Don Jr. Webcast

Sen. Tommy Tuberville, left, and Donald Trump Jr.

Alabama Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville has long been known for saying wildly racist stuff out loud in the service of the conservative agenda. And he did it again during an appearance on Donald Trump Jr.’s web show, “Triggered,” while talking about all the “woke” problems in the world.

Making the rounds on Friday was a clip of Tuberville attacking teachers. More specifically, Tuberville blew his racist whistle, saying, “COVID really brought it out about how bad our schools are and how bad our teachers are in the inner city, most of them in inner city.” But he wasn’t done degrading “inner city” educators, adding, “I don't know whether they can read and write.”

Now, Tuberville says lots of racist things, but his appearance with Don Jr. did expose how racism often works for the Republican Party: as an attack on labor.

The full exchange between the two dunderheads gives away the game. Notice how quickly Tuberville’s racist convictions jump track to labor issues.

“And they want a raise. They want less time to work and less time in school. It's just we've ruined work ethic in this country.” They’re also lazy. Got all that old-timey racism?

But basic conservative racism aside, this is Tuberville’s real agenda: breaking unions and ridding Alabama of public schools. Tuberville, like virtually all Republican officials, is in the business of siphoning public school money to the private sector. The lynchpin of the conservative movement’s war on public education and teachers is “parents rights” (unless those parents’ children don’t agree with Christian conservative politics).

Tuberville just has a tendency to bang the racist gongs as loudly as possible, and the MAGA world needs racism the way that the general population needs soylent green. It is no coincidence that Tuberville’s blunt bigotry has found a home in the MAGA camp, pushing Big Lie election fraud claims, even saying this pretend election fraud against the Donald “makes me want to vote for him twice.”

Tuberville has been called out for his dangerous racist statements before. During a Trump rally in October of last year, Tuberville gave his jumbled version of an attack on Democrats and the fake crime wave, saying, ”They want crime, because they want to take over what you got. They want to control what you have. They want reparation because they think the people that do the crime are owed that. Bullshit. They are not owed that."

Tuberville hits pretty much every racist trope that Black Americans have fought against for hundreds of years. In the span of a few months, Tuberville has said, out loud and in front of cameras, that the descendants of slaves are criminals, uneducated (if not illiterate), and indolent. Tuberville’s lazy use of racist tropes exposes him as the low-rent George Wallace he is clearly modeling himself after.

Tuberville’s racist wisdom is always factually wrong, even if the majority of Republican officials believe it. Tuberville joins other bigoted right-wing charlatans in his use of racist dog whistles we all once believed were too archaic to be used anymore—even for racists.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.