Yesterday, President Joe Biden delivered his first address to a joint session of Congress, where he talked extensively about his expansive and expensive legislative agenda. It is also tradition for the opposition party to offer a rebuttal to the President. This year, black GOP Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) was selected to counter Biden’s address. Many would ask are rebuttals important? And of course, who is Tim Scott?
Rebuttals can be seen as both a signal of the image/messaging the opposition party wants to portray to the American people while also presenting new politicians a platform to increase their national recognition and exposure.
In 2019, Democrats asked Georgia’s Stacey Abrahams to deliver the rebuttal against Donald Trump, illustrating the ascendance of the former state representative within the party. In 2016, Republicans asked Nikki Haley to deliver the rebuttal against President Obama’s state of the union address, after that Haley went on to serve as U.S ambassador to the UN. Haley is now considering running for the GOP nomination for president in 2024
On the other hand, there have also been some politicians who have not made use of the platform and have fallen out of the national conversation after their delivery of the rebuttal, with Former Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) going from delivering the rebuttal against Trump in 2018 to being the first Kennedy ever losing a Democratic primary in Massachusetts last year.
Where will Tim Scott lie in this spectrum? Will he use this brief moment of fame and build up his political brand at a national level? or will he be unable to exploit his moment in the spotlight and fall into oblivion?
Also, what does Tim Scott’s selection to give the rebuttal tell us about the Republican party’s intentions in the future? In order to give us a clearer sense out of these questions, we first need to know more about the man of the hour.
Who is Tim Scott? A rising star or a flash in the pan?
Tim Scott is not a newcomer in American politics, he served as a South Carolina Representative from 2011 to 2013, then being elected to the U.S House of Representatives from 2011 until 2013, when former governor of South Carolina Nikki Haley appointed him to fill the vacancy left in the Senate after the retirement of Sen. Jim DeMint.
Scott then won the election on his own right in 2014 and got reelected in 2016 by comfortable margins, defeating both his Democratic opponent and GOP primary opponent with ease. He became the first African American elected to a senate position in the South since the end of reconstruction, and the first black Republican to be elected since former Senator Edward Brooke left the Senate in 1979.
This list of political achievements is not easily ignored, in a few years Scott has managed to be one of the most important elected officials in a state that not only was the first to secede from the Union during the civil war but also recently suffered the heinous mass shooting on a predominantly black church at Charleston.
Tim Scott has managed to successfully play a complicated role: he is a reliantly conservative voice in almost all issues (pro-life, supports free markets, against environmental regulations, etc), while also being one of the most outspoken Republicans on issues like police brutality and civil rights, which has earned him despicable racial slurs from some liberals.
Although he voted 90% of the time with Trump’s position while he was president, he was also very vocal when the former President retweeted a video of one of his supporters chanting a racist slogan, calling it “indefensible” at an interview in CNN.
He is also the leading Republican on the issue of police reform, with him telling reporters he intends to reintroduce his bill and reach a compromise with his Democratic colleagues in the Senate. Scott even tweeted during the aftermath of Chauvin’s conviction, saying he thinks the jury “reached the right verdict” in a statement he published on Twitter.
Senator Scott has both the political experience and instinct to play an important role in Republican politics, especially as his profile fits the party’s attempts to consolidate the wins they made with minorities in the 2020 election. He is capable of making the case for core conservative values in an effective way, while also addressing (not dismissing) the thorny issue of race.
Tim Scott has said that he intends his re-election bid in 2022 to be his last. Time will tell if he intends to keep that promise or if he decides to change his work address from Capitol Hill to a particularly famous white building in Pennsylvania Avenue.