Nikki Haley is not the only Republican presidential candidate, or even the only candidate, from South Carolina, to have words for former President Barack Obama in recent days. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., recently got into a back-and-forth with Obama over the status of racism in the United States.
The latest political scuffle started on June 15 when Obama appeared on the podcast of his former adviser David Axelrod, who asked about Republicans’ positions on race, particularly Tim Scott’s assertions about the amount of progress the country has made in regard to addressing racism. While stating, “I haven’t spent a lot of time studying Tim Scott’s speeches,” Obama noted that there has been a “long history of African American or other minority candidates within the Republican Party who will validate America and say, ‘Everything’s great, and we can make it.’” Obama specifically cited Nikki Haley and Clarence Thomas as examples of this trend. Noting that he’s “not being cynical about Tim Scott individually,” Obama went on to criticize this rhetoric as incomplete.
Fmr. Pres. Obama criticizes 2024 GOP pres. candidate Sen. Tim Scott’s (SC) rhetoric on racism:
“If a Republican … doesn’t have a plan for how do we address crippling generational poverty that is a consequence of hundreds of years of racism … then people are rightly skeptical.” pic.twitter.com/bYqGRMmgy0
— The Recount (@therecount) June 15, 2023
Instead of an overly optimistic view of racial progress, Obama theorized that “there may come a time where there’s somebody in the Republican Party that is more serious about actually addressing some of the deep inequality that still exists in our society, that tracks race and is a consequence of our racial history.”
Scott capitalized on being called out by the former president. Talking to Fox News Sunday, he claimed that “there’s no higher compliment than being attacked by President Obama.” Scott touted his own policies, like Opportunity Zones for low-income areas, and accused liberals of stalling economic growth in minority communities. “The radical left and President Obama, they have failed, they have failed, and they have failed,” Scott said.
— Emoluments Clause (@Emolclause) June 18, 2023
Meanwhile, conservative media has rallied around Scott, accusing Obama of attacking the senator and claiming that Democrats hate Black Republicans. The Wall Street Journal published an opinion article titled “Why Barack Obama Is Afraid of Tim Scott.” Rich Lowry of the New York Post similarly wrote a piece titled “Why Barack Obama and Other Progressives Loathe Black Conservatives.”
With the Republican primary season just heating up, Scott and other GOP candidates will likely continue to try to justify their views on race while attacking Democrats like Obama. The former president, meanwhile, remains one of the most prominent voices within the Democratic Party and American political discourse more generally. So this may not be the last time that Scott and Obama publicly disagree about topics like race in America.