Monday, February 2, 2009

Michael Steele: Looks Great, Less Filling

Nashville’s own Carol Swain, Vanderbilt political science and law professor and recent appointee to a six-year term on the National Council on the Humanities, just met new RNC Chair Michael Steele in Washington.

Dr. Swain, who is African American, has made a scholarly specialty out of race relations, immigration and diversity issues. A self-described political independent, she’s staunchly pro-life and has attacked Planned Parenthood in editorials. She is also against affirmative action, and her views toward immigrants are harsh, to say the least.

So I guess I shouldn't be surprised to see her gushing about her Steele-y encounter on a local news group:
"I'm sooooo excited about Michael's election. In fact, I'm ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work helping him diversify the Republican Party.

"Clearly, the Republican leadership has sent a strong message of inclusiveness to racial and ethnic minorities. Alas, much of the mainstream media have not given this historic event the coverage it deserves. If Michael is successful, it could prove to be a New Deal for all Americans. Perhaps, we will finally have real choice, fresh vision, and new direction for this country.”

Whoa there, Dr. Swain! It’s not like he’s president or anything! The only new direction he can offer is for the Republican Party, and I've got my doubts.

One doesn’t have to be too cynical to point out the obvious here. Steele was picked because the Republican Party wanted to put a good face on the party, the right sort of face, if you know what I mean, just as Sarah Palin was picked because the McCain campaign wanted a woman. And it will surely backfire if the Republicans can’t find the right message to back up the messenger.

Unfortunately for the GOP, the party is trying to convince everyone that “Barack The Magic Negro” is not a racist song and “The Star Spanglish Banner” is not anti-Hispanic. So, you know, good luck with that.

As for that “strong message of inclusiveness,” I’m a little suspicious of a guy who first came to our attention calling for the whaaaambulance over a bogus Oreo cookie throwing incident.

The selection of Steele highlights a more profound problem for the Republican Party. They seem to think Obama won the election because he’s black, not because people were sick and tired of eight years of Bush policies. Sorry guys, but Obama won in spite of race, not because of it.

Wrote Thomas Schaller over at Salon:

Charles Kessler, professor of government at Claremont McKenna College and editor of the Claremont Review of Books, told me by phone from California that some conservatives had lost touch with core principles because of a mistaken belief that they've already won the battle for the hearts and minds of their fellow citizens.

"Both the party and the conservative movement have bought into the notion that this is a center-right country, that the majority of the country is already conservative, that we don't have to persuade them to be conservative because they already are," said Kessler. "That may have been true when Reagan was president, but it's not a permanent truth and it doesn't seem true to me now. I don't think Bush or the party tried to really persuade people toward conservatism."

So when Marsha Blackburn writes an op-ed for the local fishwrap repeating the same tired line that tax cuts and only tax cuts will stimulate the economy, I have to think this is a party completely out of ideas. We had eight years of tax cuts and that sure didn’t do jack shit for the country, did it? All of the deficit spending she and the rest of her ilk bemoan was stuff she voted for: the Yellow Elephant Brigade’s wars.

You know, if we hadn’t squandered a few trillion in Iraq we might have some money to spend on things like highway bridges and levees and healthcare here at home.

Michael Steele’s latest is to tell Wolf Blitzer, "Not in the history of mankind has the government ever created a job." Really? The government is the largest employer in this country, which you’d think someone who has actually been in government would know. I guess that statement was just made for a bumper sticker, like so much else that one hears from Republicans these days.

Americans went to the polls in November and screamed loud and clear that they wanted to do things differently for a while. And all the Republican Party heard was “hey, let’s give the keys to a black guy.”


Sorry Dr. Swain, but I wouldn’t be waxing enthusiastic over Michael Steele. The Republican Party needs to change more than its skin color.