Scott may have been appointed to the Senate. But to win his House seat, he had to win votes from an overwhelmingly white and conservative primary electorate. In the process, he beat Carroll Campbell III, son of the late Gov. Carroll Campbell Jr., and Paul Thurmond, son of the late Strom Thurmond, who served 48 years in the Senate.
No longer the way we were
Scott is not the first black Republican elected to the House from a majority-non-black district. Gary Franks won such a seat three times in Connecticut in the 1990s, and J.C. Watts won one in Oklahoma between 1994 and 2000. Allen West won a seat in Florida in 2010 but was narrowly defeated for re-election.
Republican primary voters also selected the Hispanic Sen. Marco Rubio in Florida and Sen.-elect Ted Cruz in Texas. They voted for the offspring of immigrants from India, Govs. Bobby Jindal in Louisiana and Nikki Haley in South Carolina.
And of course Barack Obama has now twice been elected president. I think he was helped by widespread feelings that it would be a good thing for Americans to elect a black president and a bad thing to reject him. That's subject to debate, and surely some voters voted against him because of his race.
But on balance we have seen an enormous reduction in racial prejudice and animus in recent generations. Daniel Inouye's death and Tim Scott's appointment remind us that in that important respect it's good we're not the way we were.