Republican Sen. Tim Scott (R-South Carolina) delivered the Republican response. After beginning with faint praise of Biden’s speech, he quickly turned to pointed criticism. “We just heard President Biden’s first address to Congress. Our president seems like a good man. His speech was full of good words. But President Biden promised you a specific kind of leadership. He promised to unite a nation, to lower the temperature, to govern for all Americans, no matter how we voted. This was the pitch. You just heard it again,” Scott said.
But our nation is starving for more than empty platitudes. We need policies and progress that brings us closer together. But three months in, the actions of the president and his party are pulling us further and further apart.”
AFter outlining his backstory — a child of divorced parents who moved in with his grandmother but got an opportunity thanks to Chick-Fil-A — Scott talked about his faith. “Becoming a Christian transformed my life, but for months, too many churches were shut down. Most of all, I’m saddened that millions of kids have lost a year of learning when they could not afford to lose a single day.
Locking vulnerable kids out of the classroom is locking adults out of their future. Our public schools should have reopened months ago. Other countries did. Private and religious schools did. Science has shown for months that schools are safe.” (This implies that school reopenings were a government decision; NPR points out that those decisions were made at the district or even state level.)
But Scott also addressed race. “Nowhere do we need common ground more desperately than in our discussions of race. I have experienced the pain of discrimination. I know what it feels like to be pulled over for no reason, to be followed around a store while I’m shopping. I remember every morning at the kitchen table my grandfather would open the newspaper and read it, I thought, but later I realized he had never learned to read it. He just wanted to set the right example.
I’ve also experienced a different kind of intolerance. I get called “Uncle Tom” and the N-word by progressive, by liberals.” (Who said that?) “When America comes together,” Scott said, “we’ve made tremendous progress. But powerful forces want to pull us apart. 100 years ago kids in classrooms were taught the color of their skin was their most important characteristic, and if they looked a certain way, they were inferior. Today, kids are being taught that the color of their skin defines them again. And if they look a certain way, they’re an oppressor.”
“You know this stuff is wrong. Hear me clearly: America is not a racist country,” Scott said, just minutes after complaining that he’d been discriminated against. Twitter took notice: