WE’D LOVE TO be able to endorse a U.S. Senate candidate who understands that no political party has cornered the market on good ideas, and that the best policy includes the best ideas from across the political spectrum. A candidate who chooses sides based on issues instead of who those issues are identified with and who makes party leaders uncomfortable because he or she can’t be taken for granted.
Unfortunately we don’t have that in the race to fill the last two years of the seat to which Jim DeMint was re-elected in 2010. We have a consistently reliable Republican, a Democrat who can’t think of anything she disagrees with the national party about and a candidate who represents a new party that boasts political centrism but who has never even run for public office before, and has absolutely no public record for us to judge.
But U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, a former S.C. and U.S. House member whom Gov. Nikki Haley appointed to replace Mr. DeMint until next month’s election, has this going for him: He is an incurable optimist, a walking American Dream, a person who sees it as “our responsibility to inspire and encourage.” And there’s a lot to be said for that.
There’s a lot to be said for an elected official who isn’t constantly hurling invective at people who think differently than he does. There’s a lot to be said for someone who has an inspiring life story that he is driven to share, and who is deliberate about reaching out to young people, preaching the message of the value of working hard and getting a good education, who truly does inspire young people who didn’t see much reason to think they could improve their lot.
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Frankly, there’s a lot to be said for a Republican who feels comfortable spending time talking to black people, and not just black people who agree with him, as Sen. Scott does routinely — even if the positions he takes often don’t sit well with most black voters.
Our state, our nation, would be a lot better off if there were more black people who didn’t automatically vote the straight Democratic ticket — and more white people who didn’t automatically vote the straight Republican ticket. And that won’t happen until we have candidates who are at least willing to try to break through those barriers.
Despite his extremely high scores on ratings by conservative groups and his extremely low scores on ratings by liberal groups, Sen. Scott says he believes that it is “important to find common ground where you can and when you can, and I’ve been surprised at how easy it is” in the Senate.
When he met with our editorial board this month, he spoke enthusiastically about his work with Democratic U.S. Sen. Corey Booker in support of apprenticeship programs for high school students and with Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy on education reform proposals.
Although Sen. Murphy isn’t willing to go along with the taxpayer support for private school that Sen. Scott unwisely embraces, they’re together on supporting public charter schools, and Sen. Scott uses that to illustrate his point: “Common ground means I don’t get exactly what I wanted, but I’m able to make some progress on an issue that is important to me.”
We think voters should allow Sen. Scott to fill out the rest of the term. And we hope that in the next two years, he will develop a voting record that is less predictably partisan and that better reflects his quest for common ground.