Steele perfectly embodies modern Republican racialism. Democratic racialism represents a perversion of the civil rights ideal--an opposition to racism taken to excesses of hypersensitivity, occasionally devolving into a mere political tactic. Republican racialism is an attempt to mimic Democratic racialism without first having any grasp of the original sentiment underlying it--a parodic replica of the original thing, like a person who decides to convert to Judaism by studying Madonna.
Republican racialism is not an expression of racism but, rather, a failure to understand racism. Obama’s appearance on the scene has made this misapprehension painfully apparent. On the right, there lies an enduring suspicion that Obama’s race has been his greatest, and possibly only, political asset. As Glenn Beck complained in 2008, “a lot of white people will say, ‘Look, I’m not racist. I voted for Barack Obama.’ ” Only white racial guilt could explain the inexplicable rise of this inexperienced, ultra-radical, teleprompter-dependent figure.
Chait notes that the first GOP response to the rise of Obama has been to "get their own Black guy" -- an instinct that also showed up in the Palin selection.
On the topic, see also LGM and Matt Yglesias