Observations from Sen. Tim Scott’s presidential candidacy announcement UPDATED

Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) announced today he is running for president. He gave an excellent stump speech because he is charming and sincere. Because you can see videos of his speech without my mediation (I’ve embedded one below), I won’t spend much time on what he had to say. What I found more interesting was speaking to two black men in attendance.

Regarding the speech, it was excellent. Because I’m short and was standing, I couldn’t see Scott, but I could hear him and, just as importantly, I could hear and feel the crowd’s response.

A lot of what Scott said was familiar to those who have followed his career. His parents divorced when he was seven, and his mother raised him and his two brothers, working 16-hour days as a nurse’s assistant to give them a decent life. His grandfather, born into the Jim Crow era in the Deep South, taught him life wisdom about hard work, faith, and a belief in America’s promise, rather than her checkered racial past.

Image: Tim Scott. YouTube screen grab.

Scott’s values are conservative. He’s deeply religious, and he believes in a post-racial America. He says that all able-bodied people should work, that we need a strong border, that the economy must be unchained, that we need to unleash America’s ability to produce energy, that our military must be the strongest in the world, that the police matter (especially in poor communities beset by crime), and that our children should be educated not indoctrinated. The only hot conservative issue that he didn’t touch upon was transgenderism, although I felt that fell under the “educated, not indoctrinated” rubric.

It was, in other words, a standard conservative stump speech. What made it enjoyable and affecting was that Scott is not just a good speaker but a good human being. That shines through in what he says. His words don’t come after having a Republican consultant test them before focus groups. Instead, he speaks from his heart about values that are very real to him because they’ve played out across the span of his life.

Although I’ve heard the line before, it’s incredibly moving when Scott talks about how his grandfather lived long enough to see him take his seat in the Senate: “That’s the evolution of the country we live in. My family went from cotton to Congress in his lifetime.”

The other thing the video can’t convey is the warmth in the room for Scott. The rally was held at Charleston Southern University, Scott’s alma mater. CSU is just a few miles from North Charleston, where Scott grew up. He was speaking to people from his hometown, so it wasn’t just a speech, it was a conversation. The enthusiastic crowd loved him because they knew him.

About that crowd, though. Even though Scott is the avatar of the best version of the black experience in America (unlike Obama, who had a white mother, and was raised by her and his white grandparents in Hawaii and Indonesia), there were very few blacks in the crowd. Roughly guessing, about one-tenth (at most) of the people attending were black.

Because I don’t have the good sense to be shy, I talked to two young black men (in their late 30s and early 40s) to get a sense of things from their point of view. The first man, who had recently separated from two decades in the Marines, said that he wants to get into politics and is taking the time to expose himself to political ideology, clearly with a conservative edge, although he does not consider himself a Republican.

I opened our conversation by asking him why there were so few blacks there. He answered immediately: Blacks in the South simply won’t vote for a Republican, and that’s true even though their values of family and faith mean they’re more likely to be aligned with Republican political positions. He also said that part of the pro-Democrat attitude is that there are pockets of the Deep South, mostly in rural areas, that still practice segregation and rub black citizens’ noses in slavery. Because people don’t know history, they don’t realize that slavery and segregation were Democrat policies.

He believes that the key issue for blacks is economic. They are in dire economic straits, but the Republican party has failed to convince them that its policies will serve them better than Democrat policies, which always carry with them the promise of government funding. Unless Scott addresses that concern, he said, Scott won’t convince blacks that he will be a good president for them.

The man also thinks that fatherlessness in the black community is a problem. Again, until someone addresses that, things won’t get better.

The other man to whom I spoke turned out to be a member of Scott’s extended family. He and his wife had brought their young children (lovely, polite children) to this historic family occasion. They support Scott but feel that the government can do more to help blacks.

The man clarified that he was not talking about welfare or reparations because he knows that free money can be bad for people. Nevertheless, he thinks there are systemic problems that hold young blacks back. One problem is that they’re mired in communities that don’t have a vision of success. He also said that fatherlessness is one of the systemic problems the government has imposed on American blacks, and it must be addressed too.

These were short conversations. I wish I could have spent more time with these thoughtful men to learn more about their values and political goals.

I don’t know how Tim Scott’s campaign for president will go, but I do know that it will be a very interesting one to watch. The biggest problem I see is that the media will do to him what they do to the great Thomas Sowell; that is, completely ignore him so that American blacks and, indeed, Americans as a whole, don’t get exposed to his ideas.

UPDATE: I forgot to talk about one thing, and I need to correct a misapprehension someone had. The thing that I forgot is that the campaign had brought three quality food trucks and a gelato cart to the venue. After spending time in a hot, crowded gymnasium, it was a treat for attendees to get a free lunch, a cold soda, and some ice cream. I appreciated the gesture.

Regarding the misapprehension, according to a Not the Bee post about the rally, some thought a Newsmax reporter was acting when he claimed not to be able to hear Scott above the roar of the crowd. In fact, the crowd was enthusiastic and loud. I often missed what Scott was saying when people were cheering and chanting. 

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