The first campaign I ever worked on was for a Black Republican who went to law school with my father and ended up as the first Black man elected to the United States Senate since Reconstruction. I was a little girl, with an “Ed Brooke for Senator” banner across my tee shirt at the Topsfield Fair. When I got lost, security had to announce that the youngest “Brooke Girl” had lost her parents. Welcome to politics.
Could Tim Scott be the next Ed Brooke?
Tim Scott, for those who have not heard of him, has already made his way to the United States Senate, and last week tossed his hat in the ring, announcing himself as the Black Republican candidate for President.
“Is he for real?”
That’s what I asked Dan Schnur on my podcast. As a veteran of four Republican presidential campaigns and three gubernatorial ones, director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at USC, who does his politics inside the 40 yard lines where presidential elections are won and lost, Dan thinks Tim Scott is definitely for real.
Dan Schnur on the No Holding Back Podcast. Click the image to listen.
He has $22 million in his warchest. Unlike the other Republicans in the race, most notably the 600 pound gorilla, he is preaching a message of hope and optimism as opposed to gloom and doom. He almost sounds like Reagan. And make no mistake: for better or for worse, Scott is still very conservative, as anyone must be, to appeal to the Trumpers who form the base of the Republican party.
But isn’t he just running to be Vice President? And what a perfect one he might be, at least to traditionalists like me, who look at things like what a VP could bring to the ticket (potentially, some swing voters). But that’s not who Trump is looking for: he’s looking for the un-Pence, the person who will ignore the Constitution if that’s what it takes.
Which is to say, take a deep breath, he is looking for Marjorie Taylor Greene, whose interview with Lesley Stahl could be seen as an interview with an audience of one—and it wasn’t Lesley. MTG, not Scott, is the sort of VP who would do Trump’s bidding, which is why she is such a scary figure in the political landscape.
Tim Scott, at least according to Dan Schnur, is not running for Vice President. He is no one’s Number 2. He is serious about the top spot and behind the optimism is a hard core conservative message that is outside the 40 yard line. Will that sell?
Is Joe Biden too old?
Don’t look at my age, Biden says. Look at the alternatives.
Tim Scott is one of them. He is polling in the single digits. So long as Donald Trump is sucking all the oxygen out of the room on the Republican side, there is no space for the Tim Scotts. And Trump is doing his best, with the help of the mainstream media, to keep it that way.
If Trump has his way, the Tim Scotts of this campaign will never have the chance to get off the launchpad. There will be the cattle calls between the lesser candidates, which will make them seem small, and the BIG townhalls with Trump, which will reinforce the view that he is special, singular, above them all.
The Tim Scotts need a clean shot at Trump, which is precisely what he will be determined not to give them. Without that, they are left in Siberia. But even with a clearer shot, Scott must walk the line of embracing the Trumpers who agree with the Don without being tarred by the leader they endorse, no easy task as Trump faces another round of potentially more damning indictments.
Ed Brooke was a very special politician. It was only one state, of course, but he brought people together, across racial and party lines. Tim Scott is more of an ideologue.
Times are certainly different. But his presence in the race is a whiff of hope, at least, of a different kind of discourse, a reminder of a different tone of politics, one based in hope and optimism and not fear and division. In that sense, he reminds us of the hopes and aspirations of a better time in our politics, and the possibilities of better times in the future.