Confused Steele can’t keep down conservative Kool-Aid

The Chicago Sun Times has reported that during a speech this past Tuesday at DePaul University, RNC Chairman Michael Steele was asked, “Why should an African-American vote Republican?” to which he responded “You really don’t have a reason to, to be honest — we haven’t done a very good job of really giving you one. True? True, …”

This has caused some to question Chairman Steele’s allegiances. Is he leaving the RNC? Is he playing the “race card?” Fear not. Nothing has changed. It’s just the RNC Chairman viewing the politics of African-Americans and other ethnic groups as devoid of substance, myopic, shallow, and emotional; when in fact, their politics are policy focused and born out of a people’s historical experience.

Chairman Steele is absolutely correct when he said “we haven’t done a very good job of really giving you one [reason to vote Republican]” and had this been the extent of his comments I would be commending him for an uncanny knack for stating the obvious. Unfortunately, he continued to speak; validating once again what too many have come to understand. RNC Chairman Michael Steele is a confused and conflicted man.

Chairman Steele has been on the talk show circuit stating “It’s time for something completely different…we are going to say to friend and foe alike, we want you to be a part of us, work with us…we’re about winning elections…” The problem is that all Steele offers is the same tired rhetoric that has resulted in major losses for the Republicans over the past four years. Steele nor the Republican Party are offering substantive policy ideas for African-Americans to consider.

After Chairman Steele admitted that the Republican Party has not ”…done a very good job …” of giving African-Americans a good to reason to vote for the party he added, that Republicans should welcome and embrace the Tea Party; a loose knit group of ultra-conservative factions that are overwhelmingly white and Southern. According to Steele said the Tea Party represents “a third or more of the voting age population …” by my liberal math that would equal approximately 33 percent. The CBS News / New York Times poll found that, in fact, 18 percent of Americans identify with the Tea Party. Most of the Tea Partiers, however, do also identify as Republican.

Mark Williams, chairman of the Tea Party Express, still questions President Obama’s natural born citizenship, and according to the Boston Globe Williams believes President Obama is at the very least “culturally” un-American and a socialist. He has previously called Obama an “Indonesian Muslim turned thug,” and the “racist in chief.” Instead of condemning this vitriol, a confused and conflicted Steele embraces it.

During the DePaul speech Chairman Steele attempted to appeal to the students by saying, “This party was co-founded by blacks, among them Frederick Douglass.” Historically, this statement is correct. In 1856 Douglass appreciated the benefit of aligning himself with a party that opposed the creation of a slaveocracy. Douglass saw a clear benefit in aligning his radical activism with the practical politics of his time. What Chairman Steele fails to recognize and discuss is that the Republican Party of 1856 is not the Republican Party of today; George W. Bush and Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) are no Abraham Lincoln. Steele correctly noted that, “People don’t walk away from parties, their parties walk away from them.” After President Truman desegregated the Army, a group of angry Southern Democrats formed the Dixiecrats in 1948 in reaction to the civil rights planks in the Democratic platform. Eventually, Strom Thurmond (S-SC) and other Dixiecrats joined the Republican Party. The Republican Party walked away from African-Americans in order to gain the favor of angry White Southern Democrats and convert them to the Republican Party.

Steele has said, “For so long we’ve allowed the Democrats to define us. We’ve allowed the media to define us.” Last I checked they’ve been very adept at defining themselves. It was Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin who tried to define who was American and who was not. Neo-conservative Republicans injected ideological Christianity into mainstream American politics. It was Former Republican congressman Tom Tancredo who opened the Tea Party convention by calling for a reinstatement of Jim Crow type literacy tests for voters and saying, “This is our country,…Let’s take it back.”

The selection of Michael Steele as the first African-American chairman of the RNC was supposed to represent a recognition that the winds of change are blowing, that the GOP needed to bring its message to African-Americans, Hispanics, suburbanites, and others traditionally locked out. But if they are ”…going to bring this party to every corner, every boardroom, every neighborhood, and every community” as Steele says; is he the person to do it?

By his own admission, while speaking to the students at DePaul University about his problems with Republican leadership, a confused and conflicted Chairman Steele said, “I’ve been in the room and they’ve been scared of me … I’m like, ‘I’m on your side.’”