It’s unclear how much notice Jim DeMint gave SC Gov. Nikki Haley of his decision to resign his Senate seat almost immediately (before the convening of the next Congress in January). But Haley will come under immediate intense pressure to find the Right Republican (and I do mean that in both senses of the term) to serve until 2014, when, under SC law, a special election will be held to fill out the final two years of DeMint’s term.
Word’s just in that DeMint himself is dropping hints that his preferred successor is exactly the guy early speculation is focusing on: U.S. Rep. Tim Scott of Charleston, a hard-core right-wing African-American first elected to the House in 2010.
Aside from joining Allen West in refusing to participate in the Congressional Black Caucus, Scott is probably best know for suggesting an impeachment move against Barack Obama last year if the president chose to exercise the so-called “14th Amendment option” to unilaterally increase the public debt limit.
Whatever his intrinsic merits or demerits, Scott’s appointment to the Senate–which has had no African-American members since Roland Burris’ departure in 2010–would be considered a propaganda coup by conservatives long sensitive to accusations of racism. Indeed, Scott exemplifies what most conservatives think they should do to reach out to minority voters–find “role models” of absolutely unimpeachable ideological orthodoxy and make them as visible as possible. If Scott is appointed, he will join Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz in being featured on virtually every piece of Senate Republican literature for the foreseeable future.
It’s always possible Haley will go rogue and pick someone else: Rep. Mark Mulvaney, another fire-breathing conservative, has been mentioned occasionally as a potential primary challenger to Lindsay Graham, who is also up for re-election in 2014. But the propaganda value of the Asian-American governor of the state that launched the Civil War appointing an African-American to the Senate is going to be so powerful to Republicans in and out of South Carolina that it’s very unlikely she’d move in any other direction.
In any event, Dave Weigel is absolutely correct to mock those who may claim Jim DeMint’s resignation from the Senate is a sign of the declining power of the Tea Party or Movement Conservatives. Aside from his active role in giving the nation Senators like Rand Paul, Pat Toomey, Mike Lee, Ron Johnson, Deb Fischer, and of course Rubio and Cruz, there’s no question his own seat in the Senate will be occupied by someone who worships the same strange gods of Constitutional Conservatism.