One of the most important political tasks for Democrats is to expose phony “moderation” among Republican pols who have charmed the mainstream media into thinking they are alternatives to Trump and DeSantis. In that spirit, I listened to a key speech by Tim Scott and wrote about it at New York.
With initial curiosity and then growing dismay, I watched a video of Senator Tim Scott delivering what came across as a presidential campaign preview in Iowa this week (it was officially the politically convenient starting point for the Republican’s “Faith in America listening tour“). It’s hard to recall a more stridently asserted expression of belief that the route to national peace and unity requires the subjugation of one party by the other.
You wouldn’t know that from some of the media coverage of Scott’s speech. The Hill called it “an encouraging speech — a step back from the gloomy and distressed messaging other Republicans have focused on, centered on the Biden administration, early in the campaign.” CBS News reported that Scott “brought a message of ‘a new American sunrise,’ articulating a positive vision that sets him apart from some possible rivals who have focused more on the cultural divides in the nation.” That’s not at all what I heard. The Washington Post was closer to the truth in calling Scott’s speech a “combative presidential vision,” though the Post also brought up Scott’s past criticisms of Donald Trump and Republican racism, which decidedly did not make it into the remarks he delivered at Drake University in Des Moines.
Not to mince any words, the Scott speech was a relentlessly partisan screed accusing Joe Biden and “the left” of pursuing a “blueprint for ruining America.” Take out the references to Scott’s personal experiences and it could have been delivered by Trump or Ron DeSantis. The senator included just about every standard right-wing attack line. He talked about Democrats wanting to “replace law and order with fear and chaos”; about “indoctrinating kids with nonsense like CRT” while “trapping them in failed public schools”; about subjecting workers to “union bosses”; about liberals “persecuting Christians” and “empathizing with killers while prosecuting” anti-abortion protesters;” about Biden “keeping our minerals in the ground.” He attacked “woke corporations” and “politicians … getting communities hooked on the drug of victimhood” — presumably excluding the communities of conservative Christians whose sense of victimhood he encouraged. And he accused “liberals” of “suggesting” something I have never once heard in my many decades of following politics: that “people like my mama would have a dignified and better life than if I had not been born” (though yes, “liberals” might have suggested having a child was her decision to make, not a politician’s).
Throughout the speech Scott treated “Democrats” as synonymous with every marginal leftist opinion ever uttered (which “woke prosecutors” was he talking about in his attack on Democratic coddling of criminals? The one that San Francisco’s overwhelmingly Democratic voters tossed out of office?). And in the heart of the speech Scott asserted that Biden and his party had broken with “two and a half centuries” of consensus American values. He didn’t quite call Biden a traitor, but that was certainly the clear implication.
So what’s all this media talk about Scott exuding optimism and predicting an American “sunrise”? Is he positioning himself as a kind of Republican Barack Obama, calling on the country to unite across party and ideological lines? No: The “sunrise” business was a proclamation of what could happen if conservatives restored their control of the country, with a GOP presidential candidate carrying “49 states.” Maybe this was a sly reference to the Republican Party prioritizing electability in 2024, but it could just as plausibly be interpreted as a call for a one-party authoritarian state. At the very end of his remarks Scott made a vague reference to a hope that Americans could “again tolerate differences of opinion,” but that may have simply been an echo of his earlier attacks on Big Tech suppression of conservative voices. And in one of the few specific examples of the spectacular GOP future we can expect, Scott credited the Trump tax cuts with creating a virtual economic paradise — until the evil woke left began to implement its “blueprint for ruining America.”
Presumably, Tim Scott will keep spreading this “upbeat message” of partisan and ideological warfare as he tours the country in the coming weeks, like some sort of MAGA Johnny Appleseed. If people really listen, they may stop talking about him as the GOP’s antidote to the raw political passions of the recent past.