If appointed by South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to replace U.S. Senator Jim DeMint, Congressman Tim Scott will become the next senator to represent the state. He will also become the first African-American from the South to serve in the Senate since Reconstruction ended in 1876.
The fact that there is a realistic possibility Congressman Scott could serve in the U.S. Senate is significant. If that possibility becomes a reality, his appointment will be huge. I say that not so much because of who Congressman Scott is, but rather because of who he is not.
Senator Edward William Brooke III, the first African American elected to the Senate after Reconstruction in 1966, was a graduate of Howard University and Boston University School of Law. Before becoming the first African-American elected to the Senate, he was the first African-American elected Attorney General in any state when he became Attorney General of Massachusetts. He became iconic for his work as a prosecutor of organized crime.
Senator Carol Elizabeth Moseley Braun, the second African-American elected to the Senate in 1992, was a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney's office in Chicago. As a member of the Illinois House of Representatives, she won a lawsuit against her own party in the case of Crosby v. State Board of Elections on behalf of African-Americans and Hispanics in the state.
Senator Barack Hussein Obama II, the third African American elected to the Senate in 2004, went on to become the first African-American president of the United States.
It would be easy to argue that Congressman Scott is not a larger-than-life figure like these three. He is a successful small business owner who served 13 years on the Charleston County Council then two years in the South Carolina House of Representatives. Like Georgia's Austin Scott, Congressman Scott started out running for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor in South Carolina then switched to the race for Congress when the terrain changed.
However, arguing whether Congressman Scott is "big" enough to join the most exclusive club in America is not the point.
The fact that Tim Scott staked out a position as a principled conservative during his college years, maintained and expressed those positions consistently throughout his service in elected office at every level and now has the very real opportunity of serving in the Senate is the point. Honestly, even though I don't agree with many of his positions, I hope that Congressman Scott is appointed. I hope that he is appointed because it suggests that maybe the playing field is leveling.
And after he is appointed, I hope that Congressman Scott is elected to the Senate. It will say a lot for the South to have the same citizens elect both Democratic Congressman Jim Clyburn, the highest-ranking African American in the U.S. House of Representatives, and Republican Senator Tim Scott, the only African American serving in the U.S. Senate. I doubt that I will agree with his policy positions as a Senator, but I will be proud of his accomplishments and what they mean nonetheless.
Karl Douglass, Columbus native and resident, is a frequent commenter on local, state and federal politics. Follow him on Twitter@KarlDouglass or facebook.com/karldouglass.