Black Republicans often make an unspoken bargain with their party: Don't talk about race/racism, and when and if you do, make it about Democrats and liberals. Mention Al Sharpton and Louis Farrakhan, and something about Democrats taking African-American voters for granted.
But never, ever, call out the GOP.
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Steve King (Politician)
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There is another part of that bargain: If, in fact, there are ever any questions about why there are so few black Republican elected officials, be ready to be part of that small list as a sign of progress.
Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina has embodied this bargain for much of his career. In 2014, shortly after he was elected to the Senate, I wrote about him in a piece for The Washington Post called, "Tim Scott doesn't want to talk about the past when it comes to the GOP and race. He should."
In an interview with Fox News the night after he got elected, he was asked about comments by Rep. Charles Rangel suggesting that Republicans "believe that slavery isn't over and that they won the Civil War."
From the piece:
"Scott called Rangel's comments 'ridiculous.' And he's got a point. Scott then insisted on focusing on 'tomorrow, not on yesterday,' rather than 'harken back to ... 100 years ago, or 70 ago.'
"The lowest common denominator of fear and race-baiting is something that the other party has tried to do, and the voters said 'No.' They rejected it. And that's good news," Scott said, pointing to Indian-American Govs. Nikki Haley (S.C.) and Bobby Jindal (La.) as proof of the progress the party has made in the South.
The last bit was classic Scott. And that classic black Republican bargain -- look at how bad the left is on race and look at the minimal diversity in the GOP.
But Scott has evolved.
He, along with other black Republicans, such as Utah's Mia Love, have had to in the era of Trump.
In a Washington Post op-ed, Scott laments the GOP silence on Iowa Rep. Steve King, who has a history of making racist comments and embracing white supremacist ideology and leaders.
In a New York Times piece that draws a straight line from King's comments on immigration to President Donald Trump's, King made his well-known views really plain, wondering how and why white nationalism and white supremacy became offensive terms.
For Scott, it's personal -- he lost his friend Clementa Pinckney in the massacre that killed nine people at Mother Emanuel AME church in Charleston. When Trump suggested a moral equivalency between Nazis and anti-Nazi protesters in Charlottesville, Scott went to the White House at Trump's invitation after criticizing him.
In his op-ed about King, Scott, who is one of two black Republicans in Congress, chastised his party as a whole.
"When people with opinions similar to King's open their mouths, they damage not only the Republican Party and the conservative brand but also our nation as a whole," he wrote in The Washington Post, adding later: "Some in our party wonder why Republicans are constantly accused of racism -- it is because of our silence when things like this are said. Immigration is the perfect example, in which somehow our affection for the rule of law has become conflated with a perceived racism against brown and black people."
Here's what Trump said Friday -- and in essence, what he's said from the day he launched his presidential candidacy -- about the brown people at the southern border: "We have a country that is being invaded by criminals and by drugs, and we're going to stop it."
Scott, of course, has been mostly silent about Trump's fear-mongering rhetoric on migrants. King is a much easier target and, even with his recent comments, isn't worried about much blowback. And now the question for Republicans, some of whom have condemned King's statement via tweet, is what to do about the Iowa congressman.
Censure him, strip him of his power, back a challenger as Jeb Bush suggested?
But that raises a larger and more uncomfortable question for the GOP.
If you censure Steve King, what about Trump?