By Isaac Willour
If all candidates were like Scott, I could almost start being hopeful for America again.
Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) has made his exit from the GOP primary. Honestly, my first reaction was to think back to a podcast experience I had last year. When I was on the New York Times’ opinion podcast ‘The Argument,’ I told my fellow guests and host Jane Coaston that I was deeply dissatisfied with where the Republican Party had set its trajectory.
Unsurprisingly, that hasn’t changed. In an ideal world, both political parties would have the philosophical grounding and the rhetorical ability to provide such positive visions, leaving voters with the less-soul-sucking task of choosing which party offered a brighter future for America. Yet, that’s clearly not where we’re at—barring a major momentum shift in both parties, we’re heading towards the task in November 2024 to pick which senior citizen, whom at least half the country hates, is offering what we believe to be the least bad future for the country. Against that backdrop, it’s no wonder we were looking elsewhere for figures who can inspire, lead, and create that positive vision.
And then Senator Tim Scott happened. The descendant of slaves and the son of a single mother in North Charleston, South Carolina, Scott had a backstory that should ring true for any American familiar with how deep the roots of racial injustice go in our country. Racially singled out in high school, college, and as a U.S. Senator, Scott’s rocky childhood and far-from-easy career gave him serious credibility to talk about injustice, and he does. Yet, as the sole black Republican in the Senate, he chose to talk about more than merely injustice. He chose to sell the difficult, unpopular, but fundamentally true idea that we are not defined only by injustice but also by opportunity.
This is a message that Scott’s background perfectly prepared him to deliver—his chain-smoking father once told his mother her kids would “be nothing, just like their mama,” minutes before Scott’s mother left with her two sons and raised them as a single mother. Facing such adversity, Scott described battling thoughts of inadequacy for many of his formative years, thoughts that followed him on a long and painful journey that would nevertheless one day lead him to one of the highest offices in the land. “Injustice is real,” he writes in his memoir. “But infinitely more real is opportunity.”
That was not a story of petty personal grievances, conspiracy theories, or a desire to build a brand for Big Business’ sake. That was the story of an American of color overcoming tremendous odds to be successful, and telling other people that they can do it too. More than that, it’s a fundamentally positive vision of American greatness. This nation isn’t great because it allows narcissists to build temples to their own glory—it’s great because it allows a young black child, descended from the victims of the darkest part of our history, to become a United States Senator and kick American racism in the teeth.
Even to those who disagreed with Scott’s politics, like the hosts of The View on which Scott recently made a headline-grabbing appearance, his story reminded us of where the American race debate truly needs to be centered. It’s not about how to categorize people based on race, and liberals and conservatives alike can agree on that—it’s about how to make sure that America is the kind of place where anyone of color can have a story of greatness like Scott’s. As a voter from the generation that cares about justice but doesn’t trust either party to deliver on its promises, stories like Scott’s weren’t just interesting or nice. They were inspiring—and that’s not a word we really associate with presidential candidates anymore.
To be sure, American elections are about far more than great stories, and it’s incredibly likely that we’re going to be up against the old binary after the primaries are over. But it’d hardly be fitting to let this moment pass without at least appreciating it for what it was—a reminder that not every conservative is a depressing embodiment (or symptom) of how angry we’ve all become.
If all candidates were like Scott, I could almost start being hopeful for America again. And then he dropped out—and left me wondering why I ever said that.
About the Author
Isaac Willour is a marketing fellow at the Institute for Faith and Freedom and the editor-in-chief of Checkpoint News. An award-winning journalist and political science student, he has covered topics ranging from Florida’s death row to the war in Ukraine and has published more than a hundred pieces in outlets ranging from The Gospel Coalition to National Review to The Wall Street Journal. He has also contributed to interviews on the state of American politics for the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and The New York Times Opinion. He blogs about culture, religion, and Generation Z at The Unafraid on Substack.
Isaac has served as an editorial intern at The American Spectator and The Dispatch and recently completed an undergrad fellowship through the Acton Institute’s Emerging Leaders Program in Grand Rapids, MI. On campus, Isaac is the senior editor of the Grove City Journal of Law & Public Policy. He has served as an award-winning political columnist for The Collegian and a teaching and research assistant for Drs. Carl Trueman and Paul Kengor.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed are those of the writer alone and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grove City College, the Institute for Faith and Freedom, or their affiliates.