South Carolina Senator Jim Demint’s departure from public office to head up The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, further signifies a reconstruction period for the Republican brand at large. Governor Nikki Haley, the state’s first female governor, appointed representative Tim Scott to fill the empty seat.
Like Haley, Scott is a staunch tea partier, and will be the first African-American senator in South Carolina.
In a historically hyper-conservative state, at least in regards to social issues, Scott has been fingered to promote fiscal responsibility and economic development. Governor Haley appointed him as DeMint’s replacement at a press conference on Monday, December 17.
Tim Scott was quoted in an ABC News article:
“I look forward to pressing the flesh on economic development issues, having the opportunity to work on making sure that our economy in this state continues to hum like an engine and get on the team with Nikki Haley to make sure that all of America continues to hear the great things about South Carolina.”
He was the first black Republican in Congress since 2003 when he was elected in November 2010, as well as the first black Republican from the South since 1901.
The social implications of this appointment cannot be ignored, as South Carolina has carried a stereotypical stigma of intolerance for far too long.
Governor Haley’s decision is significant for the Republican Party’s attempt at rebranding themselves after disappointing losses during the 2012 elections; the result of a turnout of younger, independent-minded voters fed up with a hindrance to social progression.
For these individuals, the highly conservative end of the GOP represents the polar opposite to their mode of thought. The fact the Scott leans far to the right could provide a demographic shift to the party’s benefit.
Scott is one of ten black congressmen to be elected in South Carolina since 1870 and is qualified to take the vacant Senate seat.
DeMint called Scott “a great choice for South Carolina and the nation.”
The tea party group, FreedomWorks, also championed Haley’s appointment. Matt Kibbe, president of the organization, said:
“We are confident that Tim Scott will be a leading voice to advance the principles of individual freedom and limited-government, and he will be an excellent addition to a growing caucus of fiscal conservatives in the Senate.”
The major social victories of 2012 will likely continue in 2013. The Republican Party knows what issues really matter to the voting majority, and now must reassess its approach going forward.