I’m going to start by saying that there are few areas in politics where Michael Steele and I agree, particularly regarding some of the issues facing America today. Still, I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. The fact that he has chosen the current Republican Party, though, is one area that confounds me. It is, at the same, time both “bewildering and admirable.”
I’ll start with “admirable.” From the time of Abraham Lincoln’s presidency until that of Lyndon Johnson a Democrat, African-Americans had a strong reciprocal relationship with the GOP. With that in mind, it’s not too difficult to understand, from a historical standpoint, how he could make that choice.
Here is an excerpt from the keynote address given to the Jackson County Republicans Lincoln Day Dinner, March 4, 2006. The speech is entitled:
“The Ship and the Sea: ‘The Party of Lincoln’ and Civil rights.”
“For 150 years, the Republican Party held high the banner of civil rights. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party defended slavery, segregation and allied itself with the Ku Klux Klan to take the vote away from black and white Republicans and terrorize them into submission. Little wonder the Democratic Party was known as the “party of the Klan” well into the 20th century. When Democrats finally embraced the cause of racial freedom in the 1960s, they were the “Johnny come latelys” of the civil rights movement, simply undoing the damage their Party had inflicted on racial minorities during the prior 100 years. We, the Party of Lincoln and Frederick Douglass and Ward Connerly, have a far better claim to civil rights but we have forgotten our own history.”
The entire speech is a must read and it can be found at George Mason University’s “History News Network.” http://hnn.us/blogs/entries/22526.html
There is another reason that I find Michael’s choice “admirable.” The lack of African-Americans in prominent positions of authority within the party has been a persistent point of consternation for Blacks throughout the nation, and I have to admit that seeing him being interviewed in 2008, representing the party as head of the Republican National Committee, wearing a baseball cap on occasion, speaking with occasional “street slang,” and vowing to diversify the party, and expand the republican “big tent,” offered a measure of hope that, perhaps, given the emergence of then candidate Barack Obama, the republican’s may have found the right man to counter the drift towards homogeneity the party had taken. But alas…..
The “hip-hop chairman” image was not something that a large group within the party, ultimately, could embrace. Still he showed tremendous “resolve” by clearly pointing out some of the problems facing his party. He worked to find solutions to them and attempted to mitigate some of the concerns that many of those on the “far right” had with reaching out to non-members. Despite his avowed efforts to open up the party to other African-Americans, to reach out to Latinos, to diversify the thinking on issues important to women, the “LGBT community” and other specific demographics within the electorate, all that many within his party saw was that “cap.”
After, what turned out to be, an expected loss to now President Obama in November 2008, the party decided to circle the wagons around their fundamentalist right-wing dogma, and in spite of leading, what turned out to be a remarkably successful 2010 mid-term election run for Republican candidates (the Republican’s gained 60 House seats, 7 seats in the Senate, and 7 Governorships), Michael found himself “odd (at least to their way of thinking) man out.” In January 2011 was replaced by Reince Priebus.
For all of the party’s finger-pointing, casting aspersions upon the chairman,and, in my opinion, not giving him proper credit, one thing was true. Michael had correctly pointed his finger at a whole host of problems, that would come back to haunt the party in ways that, though it shouldn’t have, seemed to catch them completely by surprise.
Watching and listening to Michael in the weeks leading up to the November, though it was obvious that he wasn’t surprised. With the republicans, having moved away from their 2010 mantra of jobs, jobs, jobs to an all out assault on social programs, women’s right’s, voter suppression, anti-union efforts, their reluctance to discuss immigration reform, their fundamentalist attitude’s about marriage, his frustration with the party could be seen on his face and heard in his voice.
So, this is where the “bewilderment” comes in.
Why, given the way they treated him and the direction the party has taken, would Michael want to, again run for chairman of the RNC. Could it be that his love for his party is greater than his disgust with what they have become? Could it be that what he wants is his party back? “The Party of Lincoln?” The party of Frederick Douglas? The party of Ward Connerly? The party of Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower? Could he want it back?
Again, I am not a Michael Steele fan. I am, though, a fan of commitment, a fan of devotion. It’s clear to me [that] Michael’s commitment and devotion extends “to and beyond” his party, to all of America.
So go for it, Bro. This time, though, I hope they love you back.
- Republicans crushed the Ku Klux Klan (grandoldpartisan.typepad.com)
- Demographics will doom Republican Party (suntimes.com)
- Did You Know Republican Party in the Post-Civil War South Was Founded by Freed Slaves? (fellowshipofminds.wordpress.com)
- Dear Barry Goldwater, From George Romney (andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com)
- Finally it’s out in the open and people are not sugar-coating it: The Republican Base are Racists. (iflizwerequeen.com)
- Steele floats running for RNC chairman again (thehill.com)
- Michael Steele calls current RNC chairman’s tenure ‘an absolute failure’ (thegrio.com)
- Michael Steele: When I was in charge, Republicans won (washingtonpost.com)
- Michael Steele On Running For RNC Chair Again: ‘It’s Not A Bad Idea’ (mediaite.com)