Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Steele Gets Welcomed In

Ta-Nehisi Coates had an interesting response to new RNC chair Michael Steele's now infamous remark to Barack Obama: "How do you like me now?"
And I think Obama follow that up with: Chairman Steele, Play your position. You lost a senate race in one of the blackest state's in the country, after a particularly racially divisive Democratic primary. Obama is a black Democrat who just won Virginia and North Carolina. At least Mel Martinez had won an election. What's that Clips lyric? You are not him.

And so begins what is sure to be Steele's stormy relationship with the Black community during his tenure as RNC chair. Coates actually had one of the nicer reactions. The Field Negro was significantly more ... circumspect. And then there is Jill Tubman:
Black people just don’t believe a word that black conservatives say. Our working assumption is that a black conservative is willing to align his or herself with a party that openly attacks black people for one or all of the following reasons:

* self-hatred paired with hatred of all black people (Clarence Thomas, Ward Connerly)
* mediocrity paired with overwhelming ambition (Clarence Thomas, Armstrong Williams)
* cynicism and avarice paired with overwhelming ambition (Condi Rice, Colin Powell, Michael Steele)

We generally believe that black conservatives have chosen that path in order to take the fastest route they could find to fame, money and power. If it means selling the rest of us down river, so be it.

That, I think, is a little unfair. This piece on The Root, by contrast, I think is very fair:
However, the GOP's real problem with black people is not so much that the white conservatives in the party do not reach out to blacks, but that so-called black conservatives do not do enough outreach to black voters.

Black conservatives as a group, particularly the prominent intellectuals, seem to go out of their way to attack the black community. Consider conservative author Star Parker’s intellectual meditations titled, Pimps, Whores, and Welfare Brats or Uncle Sam’s Plantation. Ouch!

Most black conservative commentators are largely viewed by blacks as opportunistic, attack dogs for the white conservative establishment. This perception is entirely unhelpful in a community that understands that its core interests are in equal access and opportunity, health care and community redevelopment.

In short, black conservatives often can't get a hearing on important issues among blacks because they have positioned themselves as hostile to the interests of black people.
The black members of the GOP rarely, if ever, stand up and speak out when the party does the wrong thing. Where are the black conservatives when Rush Limbaugh says, “We are being told we have to hope he succeeds, that we have to bend over and grab our ankles ... because his father was black, because this is the first black president, we've got to accept this”? Limbaugh is out of control. He is being overtly racially offensive and both black conservatives and the Republicans in Congress are terrified to denounce him publicly.

As long as the blacks who self-identify as “conservatives” continue to lay down for this nonsense, and continue to attack and alienate themselves from their own community, instead of reaching out, listening and building coalitions within the black community; black voters for the foreseeable future will continue to reject the Republican Party and black conservative ideology.

It's a bit unfair to group Steele in this -- The Root piece I linked to noted the same instance I did where Steele justly flamed Republican "outreach" to Black voters. But at the same time, Steele has not been particularly willing to buck the cryptoconservative wing of his party which is nearly entirely predicated on denigrating and diminishing Black people.


Tony Henke said...

"the cryptoconservative wing of his party which is nearly entirely predicated on denigrating and diminishing Black people."

uh, what?

PG said...

Steele has not been particularly willing to buck the cryptoconservative wing of his party which is nearly entirely predicated on denigrating and diminishing Black people.

In fairness to Steele, he did criticize Chip Saltsman, another RNC chair candidate, for sending around that Limbaugh-associated parody "Barack, the Magic Negro," whereas Ken Blackwell said any such concern was an example of "hypersensitivity in the press regarding matters of race." So he's willing to criticize Limbaugh, at least indirectly and when specifically asked for his reaction. I'll take that over Blackwell's reassurances to white Republicans that stuff like that isn't racist at all.

section9 said...


Steele's mission is to grow a party, not to curry favor with Ta-Nahesi Coates and other members of the black commentariat.

They are going to vote Democratic, anyway. The notion that they would treat Steele fairly or even seriously is laughable. Far easier to accuse him of Uncle Tom-ism and to walk away.

For Steele, and other black Republicans, the path is hard and rough.

Take Maryland. Steele was far and away the better candidate in 2006 in Maryland. He was far better versed about the issues than his store mannequin opponent, but he lost a close one in an toxic year for Republicans. However, the template he used can be duplicated nationally, and to far better effect.

David Schraub said...

There is no serious way Michael Steele was more in line with the values of the people of Maryland than Benjamin Cardin. I say that as someone who isn't intensely hostile to Steele (any more so than I am to any other Republican anyway). Maryland is one of the most liberal states in the union. Steele is not a liberal. Cardin is. Easy choice -- for me, and other Maryland voters.

If Steele is serious about reaching out to Black voters (and I hope he is -- I think Black people should vote Democrat because they agree with us, not because they find Republicans patronizing and racist), he has to start viewing them as rational human beings who actually intelligently evaluate political candidates and make choices accordingly. Steele, I think, understands that, but most Republicans seem to view the Black community as somehow intellectually diseased ("why else would they all vote Democratic?") rather than engaging in a bit of introspection. If he's going to "grow the party" in a country that is becoming more diverse daily, he's going to do it by excising your retrograde opinions about Black folk from the party.

Oh, and even in MD, losing by 10 points isn't a "close one". Not a blowout, perhaps, but not particularly close either.