To build momentum, Scott addresses race and racism in Chicago | ET REALITY


Sen. Tim Scott, struggling to gain ground less than three months before the first Republican primaries are scheduled to air, arrived on Chicago’s South Side on Monday to berate the welfare state and liberal politicians he dismissed as “drug dealers of the despair”.

The speech was at New Beginnings Church in the poor neighborhood of Woodlawn. It may have been directed at black Chicagoans, but the South Carolina senator’s broadsides – criticizing “the radical left,” the first black vice president, Kamala Harris, and “liberal elites” who want a “United States” United without courage, without faith and without a father, where the government becomes God” – were aimed at a distant audience. That audience was Republican voters in the early primaries and caucuses of the states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, and donors who have walked away from his campaign.

His political persona as the “happy warrior” gave way to an antagonism toward the black leaders who run the country’s third-largest city and the Democratic Party that “would rather lower the bar for people of color than raise the bar for people of color.” color”. their own leadership.”

Addressing a largely receptive audience at a church led by a charismatic Republican pastor, Scott added: “They say they want low-income Americans and people of color to rise up, but their actions are taking us in the opposite direction. The actions say they want us to sit down, shut up and don’t forget to vote as long as we vote blue.”

The speech came just minutes before a call from Scott’s campaign staff announcing that the senator’s once-successful campaign would move most of its resources and staff to Iowa in a last-ditch effort to win the first caucus of the season and rescue the Campaign.

“Tim Scott is all for Iowa,” his campaign manager, Jennifer DeCasper, said in a statement.

Scott, the first black Republican senator from the South in more than a century, launched his presidential bid in May, with a slate of prominent Republicans behind him, a $22 million war chest and a message of optimism that separated him from the crowd. primary field. For many white Republicans, his message on race, delivered as a son of South Carolina, where slavery was deeply rooted and where the Civil War began, resonated, while many black Democrats found it naïve and insulting.

“If we stop at our original sin, we haven’t begun American history, because American history is not defined by our original sin,” he said earlier this year while considering a presidential run. “America’s history is defined by our redemption.”

But from the beginning, even his supporters wondered aloud whether optimism and elevation were what Republican voters wanted, after so many years of Donald J. Trump and the growing culture of revenge in the Republican Party.

Last weekend, Don Schmidt, 78, a retired banker from Hudson, Iowa, put it bluntly to Mr. Scott as the senator campaigned in Cedar Falls before the University of Northern Iowa beat the University of North Dakota in football. Schmidt told Scott she was thinking about supporting him or Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina.

“But,” he warned, “I don’t know if Trump can be defeated.”

Race has been a particularly problematic topic for Scott lately. He has immediately maintained that there is no systemic racism in the United States, but he has also spoken of forcing a grandfather to drop out of school in the third grade to pick cotton in the Jim Crow South, and of his own run-ins with authorities. . simply because he drove a new car.

Their audience Monday on the South Side were the grandchildren of black workers who left the segregated South during the Great Migration to support the industrialization of the Upper Midwest. And he seemed to invite the reaction he received after the speech to be part of political theater.

Rodrick Wimberly, a 54-year-old congregant at New Beginnings Church, was incredulous that Scott didn’t really believe that the failings of some blacks were caused by systemic impediments. He cited redlining that kept black Chicagoans out of safer neighborhoods with better schools and credit discrimination that suppressed black entrepreneurship and homeownership.

“What we see in education, in housing, the widening of the wealth gap, there is statistical data that shows or suggests that there are at least some problems that are systemic,” Wimberly told the senator. “It’s not just individual.”

But Scott stood his ground, as he has since June, when the senator tried to drum up interest in his campaign with a confrontation on “The View” over a claim that he didn’t “understand” American racism. .

When Wimberly suggested that the failing education system was an example of the systemic racism holding back black people in Chicago, Scott responded: “But who runs that system? Black people run that system.”

However, such clashes have largely failed to boost his campaign. On Saturday, his hometown newspaper The Post and Courier of Charleston, reported Scott and other Republican candidates will drop out and endorse Haley as the candidate best positioned to challenge Trump in the primary, which begins in less than three months.

Last week, Mr. Scott’s super PAC, Trust in the Mission PAC, or TIM PAC, told donors it was canceling “our entire fall media inventory.”

“We are not going to waste our money when the electorate is not focused or ready for an alternative to Trump,” Rob Collins, a Republican strategist who is co-chairman of the super PAC, wrote in the blunt memo.

As Bill Brune, 73, a Republican and Army veteran from La Motte, Iowa, said this weekend: “There are a lot of good people, but they don’t get attention. The good ones finish last.”

Republican politicians, including Trump, who has a gleaming high-rise hotel on the Chicago River, have for years used the city as a stand-in for urban decay and violence, though that portrait is incomplete at best. Vivek Ramaswamy, another Republican presidential candidate, came to another South Side neighborhood three miles from New Beginnings in May to discuss tensions among black residents over the city’s efforts to accommodate an influx of immigrants, many of whom They were taken by bus from the border by the governor. .. Greg Abbott of Texas, but also to show his willingness to speak to audiences generally ignored by Republican candidates.

Monday’s appearance was, in effect, Scott’s vision of embracing (and amplifying) Ramaswamy’s flair for the dramatic. Shabazz Muhammad, 51, was released from prison in 2020, after serving 31 years. Since then, he said, he has struggled to find work and housing because of his history and what he called “social traps” in his way. Beyond the candidate’s criticism of the welfare state, Muhammad wanted to know specifically what Scott wanted to do to help people like him.

Scott, though sympathetic, was unwavering in his description of social welfare policies as “colossal, devastating, continuing failures.”

“Are we tough enough to improve and not become bitter?” he asked his audience.

Neil Vigdor contributed reporting from Iowa.

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