Former Gov. Nikki Haley and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott reflected on their personal experiences as minorities in the Palmetto State and took aim at Democrats who claim racism is alive in America during their speeches at the opening night of the Republican National Convention.
The South Carolina pair were part of the closing portion of the first night of a four-day push to launch Donald Trump toward a second term.
Haley, Trump’s former U.N. ambassador, used her televised speech to reflect on how her rise in politics shows that opportunity — and not racism — defines America.
“In much of the Democratic Party, it’s now fashionable to say that America is racist,” she said. “That is a lie. America is not a racist country.”
Scott spoke of American opportunity and following Trump’s path to get there.
“There are millions of families like mine across this nation…full of potential seeking to live the American Dream,” he said. “And I’m here tonight to tell you that supporting the Republican ticket gives you the best chance of making that dream a reality.”
Monday’s theme was “Land of Promise” and both South Carolinians highlighted their careers as examples of how they prospered in America and took aim at Democrats who they believe want to divide the nation.
Their speeches also showcase the politicians’ status in the party, and sets the stage for them to seek higher platforms in the future.
Haley talked about how she was raised in Bamberg by her Indian immigrant parents. Her mother was the owner of a clothing company and her father was a professor at Voorhees College.
“We faced discrimination and hardship,” she said. “But my parents never gave in to grievance and hate. My mom built a successful business. 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.”
While Democrats have attacked Republicans for not speaking up in agreement with Black Lives Matter, Haley took another tack.
“The Black cops who’ve been shot in the line of duty – they matter. 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.”
She also talked about how the state came together when Dylann Roof shot and killed nine African-Americans at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, highlighting that there wasn’t division but unity after the mass shooting happened.
“After that horrific tragedy, we didn’t turn against each other,” Haley said. “We came together –Black and White, Democrat and Republican. Together, we made the hard choices needed to heal – and removed a divisive symbol, peacefully and respectfully.”
She took shots at Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden. Haley said while Biden was helping to add regulations in America, she was slashing it in the Palmetto State.
Her speech Monday, and her direct comparison of her accomplishments to Biden’s, stokes the speculations that she will be a Republican presidential candidate in 2024.
Scott is the lone African-American Republican in the Senate and is often praised by Trump and the GOP while also managing to criticize the commander in chief for offensive comments and policies he disagrees with.
He talked about his first election to national office in 2010. In that congressional race he beat Paul Thurmond, the son of former S.C. governor, U.S. senator and staunch racial segregationist Strom Thurmond.
Scott highlighted his election to office as an example of how America provides opportunity to minorities.
“You may be asking yourself how does a poor Black kid from a single parent household run and win a race in a crowded Republican primary against a Thurmond?” he said. “Because of the evolution of the heart, in an overwhelmingly White district the voters judged me on the content of my character, not the color of my skin.”
Scott was born in North Charleston and attended Presbyterian College in Clinton from 1983 to 1984, on a partial football scholarship. In his speech, he highlighted his grandfather and talked about how much life has changed for African-Americans since then.
“Growing up, he had to cross the street if a White person was coming,” he said. “Yet, he lived to see his grandson become the first African American to be elected to both the United States House and Senate. Our family went from cotton to Congress in one lifetime. And that’s why I believe the next American century can be better than the last.”
He also took aim at Biden.
“Make no mistake: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris want a cultural revolution,” he said. “A fundamentally different America. If we let them, they will turn our country into a socialist utopia … and history has taught us that path only leads to pain and misery, especially for hard-working people hoping to rise.”
Reach Thomas Novelly at 843-937-5713. Follow him @TomNovelly on Twitter.
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