NAACP welcomes Scott to Senate, expects no help from ‘small government’ lawmaker

Vince Coglianese Editorial Director
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The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People isn’t too excited about the appointment of Rep. Tim Scott to South Carolina’s soon-to-be-vacated U.S. Senate seat.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley announced her appointment of the black Republican during a noon press conference in Columbia, South Carolina. Scott will replace Sen. Jim DeMint, who is leaving to take the top position at the conservative Heritage Foundation. (RELATED VIDEO: DeMint going from 4th-poorest senator to Heritage millionaire)

That appointment will make Scott the only black U.S. senator, at least until 2014, when he runs for re-election. The last black senator was Illinois Democrat Roland Burris, who left office in November of 2010.

Hilary Shelton, senior vice president for advocacy and policy at the NAACP, told The Daily Caller Monday afternoon that the group welcomed diversity in the Senate, but expects the new senator to work against the NAACP’s agenda.

“It is important that we have more integration in the U.S. Senate,” said Shelton in a phone interview. “It’s good to see that diversity.”

“Mr. Scott certainly comes from a modest background, experience, and so forth, and should be sensitive to those issues,” he said, referring to Scott’s impoverished single-parent upbringing in Charleston, SC.

“Unfortunately, his voting record in the U.S. House of Representatives raises major concerns,” Shelton said.

Shelton explained that the NAACP platform is crafted through an annual voting process which engages grassroots-level delegates who vote on the group’s national agenda. That agenda calls for an expansive role for federal government spending in black communities.

Scott, Shelton said, would likely work against that agenda, favoring instead the “small government” posture of Ronald Reagan and that president’s Secretary of Education, William Bennett.

“Small government usually means, as it’s being described these days, the elimination of the role of government and support for initiatives and programs that are crucial for the African-American community,” Shelton said.

“When the discussions about small government were utilized by Ronald Reagan, he appointed Bill Bennett as the Secretary of Education. Bill Bennett had actually voted during his time in the House of Representatives to eliminate the Department of Education,” he continued, though Bennett never held elective office. “That’s not within the African-American community’s best interest.”

Smaller government also means less federal assistance for housing and signals an abandoning of civil rights regulations as enforced by the Justice Department, Shelton said, highlighting the Department’s crackdown on what he called “anti-immigration” laws across the country.

Scott “has demonstrated a record of opposition to civil rights protection and advancing those real issues of concern of the NAACP’s noted African-American community,” Shelton added.

Writing about Scott as a “tea party favorite” Monday for the Wall Street Journal, columnist Jason L. Riley recalled a 2010 NAACP “resolution condemning ‘racist elements and activities’ in the tea party. The civil rights group also issued a report that accused the movement of giving a ‘platform to anti-Semites, racists and bigots.'”

Riley wrote that the accusations were “nonsense” and said that Scott’s rise — from his 2010 election to Congress to become the country’s only current black senator — should put such allegations to rest.

In 2010, Scott responded to allegations of racism in the tea party, telling CBN News, “There are good people and bad people in all organizations fundamentally however, when you look at the basis of the Tea Party it has nothing to do with race. It has to do with an economic recovery.”

“Certainly I feel like I’m the tip of the arrow at times because certainly the national media wants to talk about the fact that I’m a black Republican and some people think of that as zany that a black person would be a conservative but to me what is zany is any person black, white, red, brown or yellow not being a conservative,” Scott said then.

To that point, Shelton explained that black Americans, like all voters, “vote their interests.” And those interests involve an expanded role for the federal government, Shelton said.

While the NAACP doubts Scott will serve their legislative interests in almost any way, Shelton did express a sliver of hope that Scott would experience a conversion that leads him to support the organization’s agenda.

“We also believe he has a tremendous opportunity. We have seen politicians, in particular, change directions recognizing that as he moves into this larger responsibility … his voice will reverberate even louder and more prophetically,” Shelton said.

“It is important, we believe, that he recognize that awesome responsibility and perhaps what we’ll see is a change in how he votes and what he advocates for in a way more consistent the NAACP has as well,” he concluded.

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