Tim Scott has a chance to do something of moderate historical significance: after winning South Carolina's first congressional district primary last night, he could become the first black Republican to serve in Congress since 2003, when Oklahoma's J.C. Watts retired despite the urgings of President Bush, Rosa Parks, and numerous Democratic civil-rights leaders.
As the Republican nominee, he's likely to achieve that: the district, currently held by retiring Republican Henry Brown, is favored to stay red in 2010 by the Cook Political Report, which rates the district as R+10 on its partisan voter index.
But there's some quality schadenfreude here: Scott won his primary last night against Paul Thurmond, son of segregationist senator and one-time presidential candidate Strom Thurmond.
Paul Thurmond, a member of the Charleston City Council, is not his father. But his father did fillbuster the Civil Rights Act, and the views Strom Thurmond held in the civil rights era have haunted the GOP in more recent times: Trent Lott was booted as Senate majority leader after voicing support for Strom's segregationism, and the Civil Rights Act was briefly resurrected as a campaign issue this year after Rand Paul's opposition to desegregating private businesses came to light.
Strom-haters will undoubtedly take joy in Paul Thurmond's loss to Scott, by a margin of 68%-31% in their runoff last night. Not that the Democrats among them will actually like Scott on the issues: he's a proud member of the NRA, describes himself as "100% pro-life," and opposes a "government takeover of health care."
But regardless of whether Paul Thurmond deserves it, those who remember his late father with distaste will probably have a chuckle today at his expense.