By Matthew Little
Volumes have been written regarding last month’s elections and the impact that it could have on the country. The news-making story has been the Republican Party, with the aid of the Tea Party, and how it was able to perform an unprecedented sweep of victories in both the federal and state elections.
The magnitude of victory was so great that even President Obama himself described it as a “shellacking.” It was considered especially devastating to the political destiny of African Americans, inasmuch as they overwhelmingly support the Democratic Party.
The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), having become a stable component of Congress, is composed 100 percent of Democrats. Needless to say, over the years it has been the prime catalyst for most of the congressional civil rights legislation.
With the Tea Party having played such a key role in the Republicans’ victory, it would seem to indicate a diminution of African American congressional presence and influence at the congressional level. But, to the contrary, instead of decreasing the population of Blacks in Congress, this election actually increased the number by two.
Equally surprising was the fact that the new African Americans are Republicans — and even more surprising to many is the fact that they are both from states of the old Southern Confederacy, South Carolina and Florida, and their districts are predominantly White.
Here you have two relatively unheralded African Americans defeating their White opponents in the heart of the Deep South. Sound strange?
But even more ironic is the fact that one of them, Tim Scott of South Carolina, the state where the Civil War began, decisively defeated Paul Thurmond, the son of the noted segregationist Strom Thurmond — and the district is more than 70 percent White.
The other African American congressional winner is Allen West, a military veteran from Florida. A fellow named A.J. Ravenel previously held the seat that Allen won.
Ravenel became noted for having referred to the NAACP as the “National Association for the Advancement of Retarded People.” Congressman-elect West had strong endorsement of the Tea Party and was noncommittal about whether he would join the CBC.
According to Newsweek magazine, a young Charleston student stated that she didn’t appreciate how Scott demonized Obama during the election. Some of his African constituents shared that view. This makes one wonder how the two Republican, Tea Party-backed congressmen will fit in with the CBC, who are all strong Obama supporters.
At any rate, the election of the two new African American legislators increases the number of Blacks in Congress to the largest number since Reconstruction.
I doubt that that this was the intent of the Tea Party movement that played such a prominent role in the outcome, but as frequently happens in politics, recruiting can sometimes result in unintended consequences.
Matthew Little welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.