South Carolina has nominated Nikki Haley, an Indian American, as Republican candidate for governor, and Tim Scott, an African-American, to be a Representative, the first Black Republican in Congress since 2003.
Both victories constitute further triumphs for former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, whose endorsements put both Haley and Scott over the top. Palin has become a Republican king- and queen-maker, extending her influence far and beyond what might be expected for a former governor and vice presidential candidate.
Haley’s and Scott’s victories have another historic significance, a turning point in the history of South Carolina. When South Carolina was preparing to bolt from the Union and strike the match that started the Civil War, a northern wag opined that the state was, “Too small to be a nation and too big to be an asylum.” South Carolina was the center of resistance to federal authority, especially when it came to the abolition of slavery; it was the only state of the old Confederacy that did not have some of its citizens raise regiments to fight for the Union.
South Carolina politics have been racially charged ever since. The state was the home to Strom Thurmond, a senator who ran for President in 1948 on a segregationist ticket. Thurmond subsequently disavowed the racism of his youth, and even won some of his later elections with African-American support. Ironically, Tim Scott beat out Paul Thurmond, the son of the late Strom.
As recently as 2000, John McCain blamed his defeat in the South Carolina primary on vicious rumors about his adopted African-born daughter.
That sort of dirty trick didn’t work in 2010. Despite unfounded rumors that Nikki Haley had conducted extramarital affairs, her popularity soared. She barely fell short of avoiding a runoff during the primary, but easily won the runoff by a wide margin.
Haley and Scott are favored to win their elections in November during a year predicted to heavily favor Republican candidates.
What this says about South Carolina, and American politics in general, is that race as an impediment for political office is dead in the United States. What seems to count more, as properly so, are ideology and competence.
Barack Obama, as the first African-American president, does not get any credit as being some kind of ground-breaking pioneer. For one thing, President Obama’s ideology and incompetence have caused his poll numbers to go into a death spiral. For another thing, both Haley and Scott are anti-Obamas, very conservative, running not on their ethnic identity, but rather on what they can bring to the offices for which they are running. That too is right and proper.
Haley win a boon for Palin, Romney, Andy Barr, Politico, June 23rd, 2010
Tim Scott wins nomination to become first black GOP congressman since 2003, Kathy Kiely, USA Today, June 23rd, 2010