When U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina resigned this month, there was no jostling for his seat. The smart money was already on Gov. Nikki Haley appointing Rep. Tim Scott, a rising star in conservative circles, to serve the remainder of his mentor’s term.
When the Senate returns in January, its newest member will be notable for several reasons. He will be the only African-American in the Senate and only the seventh in U.S. history.
Mr. Scott also makes the GOP the first party to send an African-American from the South to the Senate since Reconstruction. The world’s oldest deliberative body has not been notable for its diversity, so the Republican Party is quietly celebrating his historic appointment.
Having lost an election in part due to national demographic shifts, the GOP is eager to present a face other than the usual old white guy. Mr. Scott gives the party credibility on that front.
The 47-year-old lawmaker from Charleston calls his conservative politics “colorblind.” When he was elected to the House in 2010, he declined a chance to join the Congressional Black Caucus. His supporters insist his appointment to serve out Mr. DeMint’s term has nothing to do with race and everything to do with the state’s penchant for sending conservatives to Washington, although both can be true without being mutually exclusive.
Time will tell if Mr. Scott will be an effective senator. He must face the voters in 2014 to earn a full term, and by then all South Carolinians will know if he has done well by the state.