WASHINGTON — Sen. Tim Scott broke from many of the other speakers during the Republican National Convention’s first night with a largely positive address that likely introduced the South Carolinian to the country.
In a chaotic messaging night, Scott also gave in to the same talking points as many speakers Monday night: Donald Trump is doing things Barack Obama refused to do, and Joe Biden’s record on race is like the left says.
The senator from South Carolina presented an autobiographical account of his own life — “from cotton to Congress,” as he termed it — befitting a person potentially looking toward the wide-open Republican presidential race in 2024.
Unlike the other politicians who spoke Monday, Scott, who is one of only three Black senators currently in office, praised the current president but spent significant time speaking to the challenges facing America, touching on the pandemic and becoming the second person to mention George Floyd and the first to say Breonna Taylor’s name (Donald Trump Jr. mentioned Floyd in a speech directly before Scott’s).
And then, a peek into his South Carolinian upbringing.
“My parents divorced when I was 7 years old. We lived in a two-bedroom house with my grandparents…me, my mom, and my brother sharing a room and a bed. My mom worked 16 hours a day to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads,” Scott said.
Scott talked about letting his football career overshadow his first year in high school and how his mother encouraged him to reverse course, ultimately finding his mentor in John Moniz, a Chick-fil-A operator.
“John saw something in me that I could not see in myself, and started teaching me valuable lessons in life… Like, having a job was a good thing, but creating jobs would be better,” Scott said.
After talking about owning a business and serving in state office, his speech went down a similar path to those who spoke before him. Scott repeatedly hit Joe Biden, highlighting the 1994 crime bill Biden helped author, which put a disproportionate number of Black people in prison. He also spoke to Biden’s comments suggesting Black voters are a monolith.
Overall, though, the speech mirrored an earlier one from the person who appointed Scott to his Senate seat in 2013 and also stands as a possible post-Trump future for the party: Nikki Haley.
Haley, however, made her pitch for the 2024 political stage toward the end of her primetime speech, right after she called Democrats liars for saying “America is racist.”
“This is personal for me. I am the proud daughter of Indian immigrants,” Haley said. “They came to America and settled in a small Southern town. My father wore a turban. My mother wore a sari. I was a brown girl in a black-and-white world.”
Haley went on to say her family faced discrimination but didn’t give in to “grievance and hate.”
“My mom built a successful business,” she said. “My dad taught 30 years at a historically Black college. And the people of South Carolina chose me as their first minority and first female governor.”
It’s the same sentiment Scott shared of how his family overcame adversity, although more succinctly: “Our family went from cotton to Congress in one lifetime,” he said.
Haley served as Trump’s first US ambassador to the United Nations. And while she and fellow South Carolinian Scott shared a similar tone in their convention speeches, Haley touched on “Black lives” specifically but skirted the disproportionate number of Black lives lost to police brutality.
“The Black cops who’ve been shot in the line of duty — they matter,” she said. “The Black small business owners who’ve watched their life’s work go up in flames — they matter. The Black kids who’ve been gunned down on the playground — their lives matter, too. And their lives are being ruined and stolen by the violence on our streets.”
Still, the descriptions of current violence were a contrast to how she began her speech, with criticisms of former president Barack and Biden and effusive praise of the president.
With Trump, she said, “We did what Barack Obama and Joe Biden refused to do. We stood up for America…and we stood against our enemies.”