As a black Democrat I have to say: 2014 was a marquee year for black Republicans.
But the reaction from the NAACP and black Democrats has been revulsion.
Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), a member of the Democratic House leadership, dismissed Republican South Carolina Senator Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottClyburn predicts Supreme Court contender J. Michelle Childs would get GOP votes Sen. Tim Scott rakes in nearly million in fourth quarter These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 MORE’s victory as insignificant: “If you call progress electing a [black] person … who votes against the interests and aspirations of 95 percent of the black people in South Carolina, then I guess that’s progress.”
Another critic of the black Republican ascendency, Darron Smith, wrote in the Huffington Post that Mia Love’s achievement in becoming the first black Republican woman elected to the House is “dangerous.”
“Mia [Love] and others like her are seemingly out of touch with the political realities of African Americans and what remains at stake for them,” he wrote. The election of a conservative black woman, he continued, was “quite dangerous for people of color, sending a message that society is post-racial when, in fact, hate crimes, police shootings of innocent and unarmed black men and boys, and vitriolic online attacks have dramatically increased since the election of our first black president.”
Smith’s harsh appraisal fit with Rep. Charles Rangel’s (D-N.Y.) assessment of the GOP’s midterm wave in the South, in which Republicans ousted Democrats in Arkansas, Georgia and North Carolina. As one of the House’s longest-serving black Democrats, Rangel began by making the fair argument that Republicans in the South are using voter identification laws to suppress black turnout.
But he then drew a line straight from white racists in former slave-holding states to the present-day GOP. Those racists, he asserted, were “frustrated with the Emancipation Proclamation … became Republicans, then Tea Party people.”
Love, Scott and Will Hurd — a 35-year-old former CIA agent who became the first black Republican elected to Congress from Texas since the Civil War — all had far-right backing.
In response to this liberal backlash, Condoleezza Rice, a black southerner and former secretary of State for a Republican president, accused the critics of “fear mongering among minorities just because you disagree with Republicans.”
Secretary Rice is exactly right.
Even if the overwhelmingly white Republicans in Congress are using Scott, Love and Hurd to provide cover for lingering racist elements in the party, there is no excuse for assuming these three are racial traitors, or for insisting that all black people think alike.
My son, Raffi Williams, is a black Republican and a deputy press secretary for the Republican National Committee. He has often pointed out to me that it is important to have diversity present at every table of political power.
The real racism at play here is among those self-declared progressives who gloss over the fact that black people who are politically conservative and Republican have just as acute a sense of racial history — and of racial pride — as do their liberal counterparts.
Is Colin Powell, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the first black secretary of State, a racial token because he is a Republican? This is a man who built a tribute to the Buffalo Soldiers. When Powell first came to national prominence, in his military role, denigrating comments came from the white men who resented his rise because they themselves wanted his job. It is a shame to see similar slurs being used by black people on this new generation of black conservatives.
One of my political heroes is William T. Coleman, a black Republican who served as secretary of Transportation in the Ford administration. Coleman, now 94, is a master of black history. He grew up in racially divided Philadelphia, helped Thurgood Marshall break down laws of segregation, and later used his political access to open doors for black people in government and corporate life.
Is that a token?
Scott is positioned to become Congress’s leading advocate for reform of a broken public education system that is failing too many children. With nearly half of black students dropping out of high school, there is a desperate need for new ideas in the Senate on education.
Similarly, Love, as mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah, focused on bringing more jobs to town. With black unemployment nationally over 11 percent, Love’s voice and her ideas for economic development create new opportunities for black Democrats to do business with Republicans.
Hurd’s CIA experience as an undercover officer in the Middle East brings a black man’s perspective to debates on dealing with Muslim extremists.
To be clear, it is up to Scott, Love and Hurd to be more than window dressing for a GOP with a major problem as a party defined by the anger of older, white, conservative men.
But they’ve beaten the odds so far. I’m rooting for them to do it again.
Juan Williams is an author and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.