After a decent story by political reporter Jeff Zeleny Tuesday, the New York Times expressed in an op-ed a racially charged, far-left view on the appointment of African-American Republican Rep. Tim Scott to the U.S. Senate: as a "token," the GOP's human equivalent of the racist poll tax and literacy test.
Besides offensively decrying in his op-ed Wednesday the appointment of Scott, the first African-American senator from the South since 1881 and the only black senator in the current Senate, Adolph Reed Jr., University of Pennsylvania professor and contributor to the hard-left Nation, also tackled "the thinly veiled racism" of the Tea Party.
When Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina announced on Monday that she would name Representative Tim Scott to the Senate, it seemed like another milestone for African-Americans. Mr. Scott will complete the term of Senator Jim DeMint, who is leaving to run Heritage Foundation. He will be the first black senator from the South since Reconstruction; the first black Republican senator since 1979, when Edward W. Brooke of Massachusetts retired; and, indeed, only the seventh African-American ever to serve in the chamber.
But this “first black” rhetoric tends to interpret African-American political successes -- including that of President Obama -- as part of a morality play that dramatizes “how far we have come.” It obscures the fact that modern black Republicans have been more tokens than signs of progress.
Mr. Scott’s background is also striking: raised by a poor single mother, he defeated, with Tea Party backing, two white men in a 2010 Republican primary: a son of Thurmond and a son of former Gov. Carroll A. Campbell Jr. But his politics, like those of the archconservative Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas, are utterly at odds with the preferences of most black Americans. Mr. Scott has been staunchly anti-tax, anti-union and anti-abortion.
Even if the Republicans managed to distance themselves from the thinly veiled racism of the Tea Party adherents who have moved the party rightward, they wouldn’t do much better among black voters than they do now. I suspect that appointments like Mr. Scott’s are directed less at blacks -- whom they know they aren’t going to win in any significant numbers -- than at whites who are inclined to vote Republican but don’t want to have to think of themselves, or be thought of by others, as racist.
Just as white Southern Democrats once used cynical manipulations -- poll taxes, grandfather clauses, literacy tests -- to get around the 15th Amendment, so modern-day Republicans have deployed blacks to undermine black interests, as when President Ronald Reagan named Samuel R. Pierce Jr. to weaken the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Clarence M. Pendleton to enfeeble the Commission on Civil Rights and Clarence Thomas to enervate the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.