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MUHAMMAD: What Makes a Black Conservative Tick?

Askia Muhammad | 12/18/2013, noon
Askia Muhammad

I listened sympathetically as Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) spoke to a dozen or so Black columnists recently. Speaking to the Winter 2013 meeting of the 25-year-old Trotter Group of African-American Columnists and Commentators, Scott was at ease. He was unpretentious. He sounded like he knew what he was talking about. He seemed comfortable, sincere, not like the bumbling, doctrinaire, freshman House member I interviewed in early 2011 who was trying to stay “on script” and show he had no common cause with President Barack Obama after a State of The Union address by the first Black president.

This time he talked about growing up and having had some ghetto-born “challenges” during his own academic career. I was able to relate. I too had flunked up a breeze. In my case it was when I first attended college. Like Sen. Scott, I too had a mother who often intervened when my life strayed off course with her own special instrument of love – a switch from a bush in our yard.

So he had me going, leaning in his direction. I was so impressed about his background as an insurance salesman when he talked about the Affordable Care Act that I needed to pinch myself when he was finished. “Is he for it, or against it?” I wondered.

Once a month he speaks to young offenders caught up in the criminal “just-us” system. He uses his life as an example to show that a person can turn around from a troubled youth and forge a way to success. That’s real neighborly of him.

In his talk to us “Trotters,” he got to reciting those insurance industry “actuarial tables” and dropping some old country witticisms – “Pay me now or later. If you wait until later, the cost will be greater.” Before I knew it, I started feeling like he was from “down home.” Well, he is from down home, just not from my home. And there our resemblance ends.

You see, like many liberal politicians whose schemes will never fully be implemented, Sen. Scott describes his pie-in-the-sky dream world, and we’re left to believe or reject him, based on our pre-disposition to his philosophy. So, his answer to the troubles confronting the education system is more vouchers for more students to attend private schools. Next topic.

The nagging crisis of unemployment in this country will be cured by more and more entrepreneurship. So the millions of unemployed persons will form millions of “LLCs” – limited liability corporations. Every neighborhood then would support its own version of “Punkin’s Snow Removal and Lawn Maintenance Co.” or some such other effort, you dig? After these “businessmen and women” finish their part-time jobs at their community fast-food franchises or big-box stores, then they would spend the rest of their idle time managing their own companies, selling their new clothing designs or plying their trades. Why not?

But Scott’s most compelling conversation has to do with his improbable role attracting other minority group members into his majority White political party replete with rhetoric which sounds on its face to be, well … anti-Black. He’s not so much concerned about attracting more Black people into the Republican fold, as he is about just attracting people at large.

He’s not so worried about winning a statewide contest where only one-third of the potential voters are Black, because his Congressional seat had a minority of “minority” voters, as did his state senate district before that, as did his seat on the Charleston, S.C. County Council before that. If Republicans are able to attract more people at large into their ranks, he argues, and then the numbers of Blacks will take care of themselves.

There you have it, and not one word of rabid, anti-Black rhetoric has been uttered by anyone in the process. Wow, it’s easy to be a Black Tea Party sympathizer. It’s a wonder that there aren’t a dozen or more other Black arch-conservative lawmakers like Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina in national office.