Senator Tim Scott Embarks on Listening Tour; May Soon Become the First Black Politician to Win Statewide Election in South Carolina

Rainier Ehrhardt/AP -  U.S. Rep. Tim Scott smiles during a press conference announcing him as Jim DeMint's replacement in the U.S. Senate at the South Carolina Statehouse on Monday, Dec. 17, 2012, in Columbia, S.C.
Rainier Ehrhardt/AP – U.S. Rep. Tim Scott smiles during a press conference announcing him as Jim DeMint’s replacement in the U.S. Senate at the South Carolina Statehouse on Monday, Dec. 17, 2012, in Columbia, S.C.

There’s a new volunteer at the Goodwill clearance center, and there’s a lot to learn.

He’s told to toss anything that requires an outlet, to put purses in their own box, and to never throw away a Bible. His guide for the morning, James Copeland, has been working at this warehouse for the past five years. Copeland, who’s missing a finger, came here straight from prison.

“So many people out on the street know they can make more money out there, that’s what’s on their minds,” Copeland says. “That’s why I did five years. Crack.”

The volunteer, a 48-year-old man, also black, nods as he deposits a deflated football into the for-sale bin. “My cousin did seven in federal,” he tells Copeland. “Man, one of my best friends in high school, he had all the money. He had a Mercedes. He did real well with drugs. Unfortunately, sooner or later everybody seems to get caught.”

As they talk, an older white woman wanders over and asks, “You here for court-ordered time?”

“Not this time,” the volunteer says. What he neglects to mention is that his name is Tim Scott, that he’s a United States senator — her senator — and that he’s up for reelection in the fall.

In the almost year and a half since being appointed to the Senate by South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, Scott, a conservative Republican, has embarked on an unconventional listening tour, wandering his state in blue jeans, talking to folks without ever saying who he is. He’s mopped up the floors of a burrito joint, manned a shoe shop and ridden the bus through rough neighborhoods in Charleston.

This year, he is poised to be the first black politician to win statewide election in South Carolina since Reconstruction. He’s young (for the Senate), affable and able to blend in where his colleagues would stand out — just try to imagine Sen. Mitch McConnell talking about understanding the misguided allure of drug dealing, or being asked if he had been assigned mandatory community service.

In short: Scott is everything the Republican Party could ask for. Yet in an age where new senators go through the supernova process almost instantaneously, the only black Republican in the Senate has chosen to be all but invisible in Washington and, at this moment, even in his home state.

If you ask Scott, it’s all part of the plan.

“If you want to build a relationship and build a rapport, then you don’t talk about specific issues first,” Scott says to me when no one else is listening. “This is about becoming credible. It’s hard to have a conversation with someone who lacks credibility.”

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Source: The Washington |  

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