I understand that the Republican party is too gutless to pull the plug on RNC chairman Michael Steele. And I doubt that, as bad as he is, Steele will be able to stem the Republican tide this November.
But it won’t be for lack of effort on Steele’s part. In the past week alone, we have learned the following:
* The RNC spent more than $340K at a semi-annual meeting in Honolulu in January. This does not include rooms and office space for the party employees who staffed the meeting, which added up to at least another $90K. This news comes at a time when Republicans are attempting to regain standing to argue for fiscal responsibility, following eight years of not exercising much of it. It also comes in the context of an economy that still is sufficiently sluggish that many organizations and businesses have cut way back on “retreats” and other such events at exotic locations.
* Steele spoke at the annual conference of Al Sharpton’s National Action Network (NAN). And, according to NAN’s official brochure for the event, the RNC was among the 45 sponsors of the event that serves as Sharpton’s biggest fundraiser of the year. NAN says that sponsorship requires a contribution of $5,000 to $100,000. The RNC says it didn’t sponsor Sharpton’s event and a spokesman for Steele denies that the RNC contributed any money. But even if Steele didn’t “pay to play” with Sharpton, he still played at the signature event of the left-wing racist.
*Steele told students at DePaul University that Republicans have not given African-Americans a reason to vote for them. “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,” Steele said.
Steele’s position is, therefore, that the Republican approach to dealing with issues that affect all Americans — e.g., national security and the economy — does not provide African-Americans sufficient reason to vote for the party. Holding that view, never mind publicly advocating it, should disqualify Steele from the position he holds. Steele’s negative view of his party may be welcome at an Al Sharpton event, but Republicans should not welcome it.
Steele is also wrong in suggesting that Republicans have not offered special goodies to African-Americans. For example, Repubicans were the first to impose racial preferences in hiring (under President Nixon) and they have continued to impose them under all subsequent Republican presidents. By attacking his own party on race issues, Steele is again channeling Al Sharpton.
It’s arguable that Steele’s selection itself was an attempt to give African-Americans a reason to vote for Republicans. I’ve been told that Ken Blackwell — an African-American conservative who also sought the position — threw his weight behind Steele rather than a more reliably conservative option, because he thought it was important to select an African-American. In any event, Steele is right about this much– his selection is no reason for African-Americans to vote Republican.
I know it’s asking too much right now to have an RNC chairman who both respects the Republican party and puts its welfare above his own vanity. Maybe next year.