Six months ago, there were more black Republicans running for Congress than there had been since Reconstruction. On Monday there were a dozen. Today there are but two left, and they’re not candidates — they’re congressmen-elect: Tim Scott, from South Carolina’s 1st District, and Allen West, from Florida’s 22nd. Both are the first African-American Republicans sent to Congress from their states in more than 100 years, and they’re both the first black Republicans to join the House or Senate since J.C. Watts retired in 2003.
But while Scott and West share a region, an ethnicity and a political party, their differences reflect the civil war currently taking place within the GOP. To understand them is to understand the problems that lie ahead
To begin with, Scott is talented enough to have beaten Paul Thurmond — son of South Carolina’s late, beloved Strom — to win his primary in June. The 45-year-old was also a respected member of the state legislature before ever considering a run at Congress. While he was endorsed by Sarah Palin and various South Carolina Tea Parties, Scott kept his extremism to a minimum throughout the campaign, avoiding the topic of human cloning, which he has said should be illegal, in favor of standard GOP rhetoric: Secure the borders, promote values, defeat terror and so on. Scott says he’d especially like to get rid of the practice of earmarking. He’s an insurance-agency owner, and all in all, he’s a Republican.