So what’s a Republican U.S. senator from South Carolina supposed to do to keep MAGA-hat conservatives mollified? Particularly after voting against President Trump during certification of the presidential election that led a mob to storm the Capitol?
For U.S. Sen. Lindsay Graham, the task is pretty easy. He’ll spend the next four years spewing vitriol about incoming President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, just like he did during the Obama administration. He wants conservatives to forget how he dumped Trump in the last addled days of his presidency after spending four years licking his boots and carrying his golf clubs. Graham figures by the time his next reelection comes up in 2026, he’ll have spent six years trying to fix potential damage from anyone who might consider running against him in a primary.
But Lowcountry U.S. Sen. Tim Scott has a thornier problem. His “betrayal” of Trump by voting to uphold the U.S. Constitution has to be explained by 2022, which he’s said would be his last time running. He’s been a loyal Trump ally and has given him cover on some race issues. But Trump acolytes, notably the disturbed mob and their supporters who didn’t make it to the Jan. 6 party at the Capitol, are livid.
They won’t remember Scott tried to keep their support by proposing a thinly-veiled “please don’t sack me” measure to examine the integrity of the 2020 presidential election – even though it’s crystal clear that Trump’s delusional “stop the steal” message was not rooted in reality. Trump loyalists won’t forget what they see as Scott’s anti-Trump vote.
Just look at negative Facebook reactions to a comment Scott made condemning the violence at the Capitol:
• “You should have fought for us to be heard! Now we have to do it ourselves!”
• “’Team Scott is safe,’ you think that's our first concern right now?? You've contributed to what's going on today as much as any other member of the GOP. May your party go the way of the Whigs.”
• “You are partly to blame for not backing your President.”
• “You should have faught (sic) to save our constitution. WE THE PEOPLE PAY YOUR SALARY.”
Translate all of this into politics and it means Scott faces a real possibility of being challenged in the GOP 2022 primary by a Trump supporter. If that person is white, the ugly unspoken issue of race will automatically be part of the primary – even if no one overtly admits it or obliquely says anything about it.
“The Trump version of the GOP only seems to reward loyalty, not to the rule of law – not to traditional norms, not to clearly defined standards of behavior, but to one thing only, which is Trump's wish or demand,” said Greenville political analyst Chip Felkel. “That's not a party. That's cult-like behavior.
“Scott is better than that, and he's proved it by not going along with the political theater. He was bitterly attacked for doing the right thing, and depending on what Trump's status is, he may find himself with a challenge should he run again. That's an unfortunate result of Trumpism.”
Political science professor Danielle Vinson of Furman University said she thought Scott would be able to explain what he did, which was to follow the U.S. Constitution. And because most people don’t pay close attention to politics, they might not hear messages of betrayal from hard-core Trump supporters fronting a candidate to oppose Scott..
“But for all those base supporters, there are others who spent four years rationalizing Trump to themselves, because they are Republican and wanted Republicans in control,” Vinson said. “As Trump recedes – and he will at least for those watching something other than Trump media – most Republicans will be fine by 2022 with Scott’s decision, or they’ll at least be willing to listen to his explanation.”
As of Sept. 30, Scott’s campaign committee had $6.6 million cash on hand, according to the Federal Election Commission.
Andy Brack is editor and publisher of Statehouse Report. Have a comment? Send to firstname.lastname@example.org.