Black conservatives want Tim Scott to ditch ‘colorblind’ messaging with 2024 bid

Black conservatives want Tim Scott to ditch ‘colorblind’ messaging with 2024 bid | The Hill

Black conservatives want Tim Scott to ditch 'colorblind' messaging with 2024 bid  at george magazine

U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., speaks at a town hall, Sunday, April 30, 2023, in Charleston, S.C. Scott has launched an exploratory committee and says he’ll announce a decision on the 2024 presidential race by the end of May. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)

Sen. Tim Scott’s (R-S.C.) decision to jump into the 2024 presidential field on Friday has put questions of how he will navigate his identity as a Black Republican front and center.

Scott, the only Black member of his party in the Senate, has spent much of his career skirting around his identity. Although he has acknowledged growing up in a poor, single-parent household and coming “from cotton to Congress,” he has also pushed back against arguments around race and representation to focus instead on conservative policy. 

But some say this strategy will not work if Scott wants to be successful in his journey to the White House.

“The colorblind ideology is never going to work,” said Felecia Killings, a Black conservative who’s founder and CEO of the Felecia Killings Foundation and the Conscious Conservative Movement. 

“When it comes to Tim Scott, he has done like pretty much every other typical Black Republican trying to play the colorblind messaging, which appeals to white conservatives,” she added. “But we are in a very different shift right now where that’s not working.”

Scott — and the GOP — need to appeal to Black men in 2024, Killings said, and speaking directly to Black men and the issues they’re focused on will draw more of these voters to the GOP’s team.

“As more Black men are being attracted to conservative politics, conservative Black women who love our Black man, love our husbands, love our fathers, we’re going to follow them,” said Killings. “The more that conversation happens, the more those Black voters aren’t even going to pay attention to Democrats because they’re already disenchanted with them.”

Democrats have become increasingly worried about Black voter support because policies addressing some of Black Americans’ top concerns — including federal protections against restrictive voting laws, student loan debt relief, criminal justice reform and police reform measures — have stalled under the Biden administration.

Still, only about 1 in 10 Black adults identify with the Republican Party, according to a survey by Pew Research Center. The survey found Black Republicans are more likely to support individualistic approaches to addressing racial inequality, and they’re more likely to say racist acts committed by individual people are the bigger problem for Black people, as opposed to systemic racism. 

But Scott will need to distance himself from this individualistic approach on the campaign trail, said Whitley Yates, director of diversity and engagement for the Indiana Republican Party, and he may even need to share the experiences he has gone through as a Black person in America.

“To be Black in America is to never have lived here without racism,” said Yates. “That’s just a fact. It has existed in this country since we got here. … This idea of ‘we can’t trust you’ a lot of times comes from Black Republicans who completely are disassociated with their cultural identity, and they assimilate to the majority culture and they say things that go against their own lived experience to placate people in positions of power within the Republican Party.” 

That’s not to say Scott hasn’t tried to balance his identity as a Black man with his identity as a Republican. 

Scott was part of the fight to pass the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act; he co-chairs the Congressional Historically Black Colleges and Universities Caucus, where he introduced legislation this year condemning bomb threats against HBCUs; and in 2021, he joined Democratic Sens. Jacky Rosen (Nev.) and Cory Booker (N.J.) to launch the Senate Caucus on Black-Jewish Relations to fight racism and antisemitism.

But stepping onto the presidential stage presents a bigger challenge for him, said Paris Dennard, a conservative political analyst and former national spokesman and director of Black media affairs for the Republican National Committee. 

Although the country has seen Black Republicans run for president before —  Herman Cain, Ben Carson, Alan Keyes and Arthur Fletcher — the candidates aren’t often lauded for their leadership the same way non-Black Republicans are, particularly by the opposite party, said Dennard. 

“I think that the country is accustomed to seeing Black Republicans in leadership, but the question becomes, will they have a fair shot? Will they be demonized?” said Dennard. “Will they be treated the same way that a Barack Obama was treated; will they be treated the same way as a non-Black Republican is treated? A lot of times, it’s a lot of demonization, unfortunately, and double standards and just vicious attacks because they happen to be Black Republicans.”

Just this year, Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), one of five Black Republicans in Congress, was labeled a “prop” for the GOP by Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.). Meanwhile, Scott was lambasted by the Black Wall Street Times for “betraying” Black America

Dennard said that it’s time for the Republican Party to stop pretending “identity politics” isn’t a working strategy — and one they don’t already use just as much as they accuse Democrats of. 

“People say they don’t want to play identity politics, but they do all the time. Democrats have done it for years and won,” said Dennard. “Quite frankly, I think Republicans need to just embrace it. There’s no difference when you talk about curating policy or points or messaging towards a particular group. Do we call it identity politics when we go after soccer moms or when we go after evangelicals, or we go after conservatives, or we go after veterans? We don’t call that identity politics. Only when you get an issue of race is where people get squirmish. Sen. Tim Scott could help facilitate the conversation of more engagement with specifically Black men.”

With such a diverse candidate lineup on the GOP ballot thus far, Dennard added, the party has an opportunity to push back against ideas about who and what Republicans stand for.

“You can’t underestimate the impact that can have on the minds of the next generation who are looking for people that look like them and have the same values,” said Dennard. “And when you see Sen. Tim Scott up there with that opportunity, it’s a good thing. And I think it’s a good thing for Republicans to highlight the diversity of the Republican Party: geographic diversity, racial diversity, gender diversity, these sorts of things.”

With former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, and conservative radio show host Larry Elder all running for the Republican nomination, the Republican presidential field is shaping up to be one of the most diverse lineups in the party’s history

But the diverse field doesn’t guarantee new voters, particularly new Black voters. 

“When it comes to Black men, I will emphasize heavily that the RNC had no part whatsoever in attracting them, and they still don’t,” said Killings. 

Right now, Killings said, white conservative candidates are trying to pivot and listen to what Black voters are asking for, but candidates of color who aren’t Black are “doing everything they can to maintain the lily-white status quo within the Republican Party.”

“I’m listening to their message, I’m listening to how they use anti-Black messaging to repel Black voters to garner white conservative donations,” Killings said. 

Ramaswamy recently received backlash for lecturing former CNN host Don Lemon on Black history, while Haley has repeatedly dismissed racism as a problem in America. 

But if Scott “comes through with a really powerful message for Black America,” Killings said, then that message will resonate with Black voters — and lead to a successful campaign. 

“There’s so many millions of Black voters right now, who are just like, ‘Listen, we will hear the message that you’re talking to us about when it comes to these politics,’ because they are hungry for change,” she said. “The message is going to be the top priority.”


2024 GOP presidential primary

2024 presidential election

Tim Scott

Tim Scott

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: Content is protected !!

Get the Latest Updates on All Things GEORGE,
right to your email

Join the George Magazine Mailing list for Updates on All Things George

Join the George Magazine Mailing list for Updates on All Things George