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Opinion: Tim Scott’s Dangerous Dance with Election Denial

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At the 2016 Republican National Convention, then-candidate Donald Trump’s speech laid out his cynical view of America and he turned heads with his crescendo line that would make many totalitarian leaders proud; “I alone can fix it.”

A few months later in a debate with Hillary Clinton, the crowd gasped and reasonable people in the mainstream of both parties were shocked when Trump again inched closer to those despots by not-so-subtly dodging a question about if he’d accept the results of that election.

Eight years later Trump has brought our democracy to the edge of a cliff by following through on those 2016 threats.  Rejection of the 2020 election results is now an overt and defining tenet of his movement’s political identity.  It’s hard to imagine a more direct challenge to our democracy.

He was wrong about something though; he can’t do it alone.  The elevated threat in 2024 does not come from Trump himself making his same old attacks on American norms, but from the mainstream of his party that has fallen into line behind him.  The Republicans who once criticized, or at least distanced themselves from, Trump’s anti-democracy tendencies now echo them.

A particularly important and sad low-point of this dangerous decent came last week when South Carolina Senator Tim Scott was asked about accepting election results in 2024. He sounded a lot like Trump did in 2016; he shamelessly dodged the question.

Senator Scott’s pioneering place in the politics of our state makes that cowardly dodge even more jarring.  South Carolina has of course not been a true democracy for most of its history, primarily because for centuries it denied voting rights – along with many civil and human rights – from those who look like Tim Scott.

There are countless examples of our state’s deep resistance to multi-racial American Democracy; slavery, secession, our pivotal role in ending reconstruction, a still-enacted 1895 constitution that enshrined Jim Crow, our resistance to the Civil Rights Movement, and even modern “Voter ID” and “Election Integrity” efforts – disenfranchising solutions still in search of a problem.  Put simply, whenever democracy in our state has been attacked, eroded, or curtailed, it’s Black South Carolinians who suffer.  

Donald Trump, a conservative white man, becoming this generation’s embodiment of resistance to multi-racial democracy is discouraging and dangerous, but not all that surprising given the stubborn persistence of that dark ideology in American history.  Senator Scott’s newfound complicity, however, should not go unnoticed.  It was a particularly shameful and embarrassing moment for him and our state.  He of all people should understand why.

Title photo credit: Gage Skidmore

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