Democrats have long touted their party’s diversity, and justifiably so. Being able to claim “the big tent” has been an important part of the Democrat brand while the GOP identity has been one of racial and gender exclusivity. And few places, if any at all, have represented that exclusivity more than South Carolina.
Republicans in the Palmetto State have nominated a minority woman as their candidate for governor, rejecting three white male contenders in the process. And it wasn’t even close. State Representative Nikki Haley came within one percentage point of winning the nomination outright in the primary and then secured it with a landslide 65% victory in the runoff.
Two congressional races added to the GOP’s facelift. Haley’s colleague in the South Carolina House, Tim Scott, an African-American won the nomination for the 1st Congressional district seat with a no-doubt-about-it 68% runoff win. And, to dot the i in “irony,” he defeated the son of South Carolina icon, the late Senator Strom Thurmond.
In the 3rd District congressional runoff, voters in what is probably the state’s most hidebound region, rejected – though narrowly – an evangelical candidate for the more pragmatic Jeff Duncan.
While this was happening in the Republican contests, the Democrats were fighting to eliminate a Senate primary win by an African-American candidate over a white establishment opponent. Granted, the circumstances of Alvin Greene’s candidacy is … unusual … but had that story unfolded in the Republican party, you can bet cries of racism and charges of denying “the disenfranchised” would have brought the Justice Department into the state post-haste.
There is much yet to be done. After all, these are just nominations; the general elections are over four months away. And even if these stories carry through and these candidates win, women and minorities still make up far too little of the GOP resident population.
Nonetheless, these are seismic events in the Republican party in a state not known for the last bunch of generations for being particularly accepting of women and minorities in political office.
The tent is open and, clearly, the South Carolina Republican Party is telling everyone, “Y’all come!”