Saturday, November 6, 2010

Black and Republican and Back in Congress

This is great.


For the first time in over a decade, the incoming class of Congress will include two black Republicans, both of whom rode the Tea Party wave to victory while playing down their race.

One of them, Allen West, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Army, prevailed in a tough fight in a South Florida district. The other, Tim Scott, is the first black Republican to be elected to the House of Representatives from South Carolina in over a century. They will be the first black Republicans in Congress since J. C. Watts of Oklahoma retired in 2003.

“I did not want to run as a black candidate; I did not want to run as a military candidate,” Mr. West said in a telephone interview. “I wanted to run as an American candidate and win the respect of the people.”

While the number of African-Americans in Congress has steadily increased since the civil rights era, black Republicans have been nearly as rare as quetzal birds.

For Mr. Watts, a former college quarterback, the job came with a significant spotlight and significant challenges — as an African-American he was a minority among Republicans, and as a Republican he was a minority among blacks on Capitol Hill. While his time in office overlapped the tenure of another black Republican, Gary A. Franks, who represented a Connecticut district from 1991 until 1997, Mr. Watts is in the one who came to represent the perks and travails of his position.

“I was smart enough to not allow Republicans to compel me to play the role of the ‘black Republican,’ ” Mr. Watts said in a telephone interview. “But I never felt compelled to ignore real issues of the black community either.”

He did not join the Congressional Black Caucus because it was dominated by Democrats, he said, a decision that Mr. West said was a mistake that he would not repeat.

“I think you need to have competing voices in that body,” Mr. West said. “I think that is important.” (Mr. Scott has not decided if he will join the caucus.)

African-Americans found a place in Congress in the latter decades of the 19th century, particularly during the Reconstruction period after the Civil War, when 16 black men served, all of them Republicans. The first was Hiram R. Revels, of Mississippi, who was in the Senate from 1870 to 1871. Joseph H. Rainey from South Carolina was the first black member of the House, serving from 1870 to 1879, according to Congressional Quarterly’s “Guide to U.S. Elections.”

There were no blacks in Congress from 1900 to 1929, but since then, their numbers have increased bit by bit, especially after the civil rights movement, this time with Democrats leading the way, a reflection of the changed dynamics of each party and the shifts of power in state legislatures. Of all the blacks ever to serve in Congress, 98 have been Democrats and 27 have been Republicans; there are 42 African-American members in the current lame-duck Congress ...


GOP PROUD said...

KUDOS to Col. West for taking this brave stand! I voted for him because he was a man of honor who KNOWS HIS PLACE! It's about time we had someone like him in the CBC, unlike the many others who have a tendency to get "uppity" or "liberal." So long as Col. West does as his constituents direct him, he is welcome in my house any time. Semper Fi!