GOP Sen. Tim Scott used his headlining slot Monday on the Republican National Convention's first night to deliver a powerful address sounding optimistic notes about the country's potential while slamming Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on everything from his record on race to his vision for America.
In one of the most stinging lines of the night, the South Carolina senator declared: “Make no mistake: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris want a cultural revolution. A fundamentally different America.”
Scott warned that if a Biden-Harris ticket is successful, they will “turn our country into a socialist utopia.”
The line echoed other speakers who hammered the message at the opening of the party's four-day convention -- spread across the original site of Charlotte, a grand auditorium near the White House and elsewhere in a blend of live and pre-taped remarks -- that "radical" Democrats would take the country in a dangerous direction.
But Scott, as the only Black Republican senator, also has emerged as a key voice on race issues on Capitol Hill, especially in the wake of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis police custody.
“This isn’t how I pictured tonight, but our country is experiencing something none of us envisioned,” Scott said. “From a global pandemic, to the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, 2020 has tested our nation in ways we haven’t seen for decades.”
“While this election is Donald Trump and Joe Biden…It is not solely about Donald Trump and Joe Biden,” Scott continued. “It’s about the promise of America. It’s about you and me…our challenges and heartbreaks, hopes and dreams.”
In a swipe at cancel culture, he added: “Do we want a society that breeds success, or a culture that cancels everything it even slightly disagrees with?”
Scott, at several points, struck an uplifting tone, using his own life story as a lesson on the potential of every American.
"I am living my mother's American Dream," Scott said, noting that he was 7 years old when his parents divorced, and lived in a two-bedroom house sharing a room and a bed with his mother and his brother. "My mom worked 16 hours a day to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads. She knew that if we could find the opportunity, bigger things would come."
Scott said thought he had to use "football to succeed in life," and said his focus on academics "faded away."
"I failed my freshman year of high school – four subjects…Spanish, English, world geography, and civics," Scott recalled.
He quipped: "Trust me, after spending seven years in the Senate, I know I’m not the only one in Congress who failed civics."
Scott went on to talk about his election to the House in 2010, where he beat a prominent incumbent in the primary.
"Because of the evolution of the southern heart, in an overwhelmingly white district... the voters judged me not the color of my skin, but on the content of my character," Scott said, noting that we "live in a world that wants you to believe in the bad news—racially, economically and culturally-polarizing news.”
“The truth is, our nation’s arc always bends back toward fairness. We are not fully where we want to be, but thank God we are not where we used to be,” Scott said. “We don’t give into cancel-culture, or the radical—and factually baseless—belief that things are worse today than in the 1860s or the 1960s.”
Scott went on to tout his work with President Trump on "Opportunity Zones," where he said they "put hard-earned tax dollars back in people’s pockets by cutting their taxes, especially for single-parent households like the one I grew up in."
But Scott went on to slam former Vice President Biden, saying it is “critical to paint a full picture of the records” of both Trump and Biden.
“Joe Biden said if a Black man didn’t vote for him, he wasn’t truly Black,” Scott said, referring to Biden’s "you ain't Black" remark for which he later expressed regret. Referring to other controversial remarks, he added, “Joe Biden said Black people are a monolithic community. Joe Biden said poor kids can be just as smart as White kids.”
He added: “And while his words are one thing, his actions take it to a whole new level.”
Scott went on to slam Biden for the 1994 crime bill which he said “put millions of Black Americans behind bars.”
Biden himself has said he regrets aspects of the 1994 crime bill, including the longer sentencing guidelines for crack, which he said was a "big mistake" that damaged the Black community.
Painting a contrast between the two, Scott referenced Trump’s criminal justice reform law, which he said “fixed many of the disparities Biden created and made our system more fair and just for all Americans.”
He added: “So, when it comes to what Joe Biden says he’ll do, look at his actions. Look at his policies. Look at what he already did and didn't do while he’s been in Washington for 47 years.”
Scott spoke in deeply personal terms as he urged people to "focus on the promise of the American journey."
“I know that journey well,” Scott continued, while noting his grandfather’s 99th birthday would have been Tuesday.
“Growing up, he had to cross the street if a White person was coming. He suffered the indignity of being forced out of school as a third grader to pick cotton, and never learned to read or write,” Scott said.
“Yet, he lived to see his grandson become the first African American to be elected to both the United States House and Senate,” he continued. “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.”
Scott added that "supporting the Republican ticket gives you the best chance" of making the American dream "a reality."