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What is Tim Scott running for?


South Carolina Senator Tim Scott (R) has joined the throng of Republicans seeking to unseat the former President as the frontrunner of that party. So far, he is polling in the single digits, but he has $22 million left from his last Senatorial race that he can use for his Presidential race. Other than the historically myopic Florida governor, Scott has scant competition to date, and from my vantage point he has about as much chance becoming President as I do. So while is he really in this race?

The siren call of the Presidency beckons many who are long on ambition and short on possibility. But sometimes long shots can make a difference and a statement. Think Rev. Jesse Louis Jackson, whose historic 1984 and 1988 campaigns opened doors for hundreds of African American and progressive politicians, and footprints so deep that they are still impactful. Or think Arizona Senator John McCain whose populist Straight Talk Express was a feature of his failed 2008 Presidential bid. There was Shirley Chisholm, whose Presidential bid was a landmark for Black folks and for women, and Colorado’s Pat Schroeder who considered a Presidential run. All these folks, and most of the others, ran to make a point and make a difference.

What is Tim Scott’s point? In his opening rally on May 22, mostly more diversely attended than usual Republican rallies, he spoke repeatedly of his faith.

Punctuating his talk with frequent cries of “Amen,” faith was part of his theme. His talk was also replete with American exceptionalism, describing this nation as “the greatest nation on God’s green earth. Those who have experienced American oppression might argue the “great nation” point, but those who oppose truth-teaching claim that children are being taught to “hate” our country, when all Black Studies and Ethnic Studies want to teach is the truth.

What I find fascinating about Tim Scott’s cherry-picking the Bible, with his constant scripture quoting, is that he cannot seem to find his way to the scriptures that address the way our Bible treats the poor. In Luke 6:20-21, the Bible reads “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.” Or, in Matthew 25:35-40, where the Lord says “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat…whatever you did for one of the least of these you do for me” Scott criticized people dropping out of the labor market without giving any context to the ways the labor market is changing.

Replete with platitudes, Tim dropped clichés, like “from victimhood to victory.” “I chose personal responsibility over resentment,” he said, and engaged in mindless class warfare. Biden, he says, wants to get “mechanics and waitresses” to pay for student loan forgiveness. In his rambling hour long speech, Scott dusted off every Republican cliché about poor people, Black people and others. And he offered himself up as proof that there is no racism in this country. He can’t explain the police killings of Black folks, though he did all he could to block the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act (2020) from passing. His life, he says, proves that opportunity works in America. Clearly he is too myopic to acknowledge that there is not opportunity for everyone.

If I had a dollar for every time Scott said “radical left” or “left” I’d be dining resplendently this evening. He did a masterful job of tarring the left and making empty promises about what he will do. I’ll give him credit for energy and enthusiasm, but look askance at his promise to build up the military so that our allies can “respect” us while our adversaries will “fear” us. Military might, at what cost? Is every military dollar being spent efficiently?

What is Senator Tim Scott running for? Secretary of Commerce, Labor or Housing and Urban Development? He mentioned his Empowerment Zone legislation (which many say has not yielded great results)? Does he want a role in foreign relations, given his rhetoric about China? Does he want to be Trump’s running mate? Or Secretary of Education (“less CRT and more ABC”)? Or is he running for chaplain?

“Stop cancelling our founding fathers,” Scott said of the slaveholders who dehumanized millions of Black people. “I am the candidate the far left fears the most,” Scott roared. “The truth of my life disrupts their lies,” he said. Tim Scott doesn’t understand that it’s not just about him. The fact that he lives the American dream doesn’t mean that millions of others are missing it.

What is Tim Scott running for? I think he is running against a series of simple truths. Our nation is in decline thanks to the culture wars he so willingly participates in. Platitudes and attitudes won’t change any of this. As long as Republicans are willing to punish the poor, restrict women’s right to choose we will keep spiraling downward. And the scripture-quoting man needs to understand that Bible-thumping is not public policy and faith without works is dead (James 2:26).

Julianne Malveaux is an author, economist and a former president of Bennett College.