Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Meritorious Choice

Conservatives are abuzz about selecting former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele as the new chief of the RNC. One Republican leader put his appeal thus:
“He understands where the party needs to go, he has got a strong set of principles, he is well able to articulate a message in all the media forms, and can take that message to the growing areas of the country — youth and minorities — and he does very well with women. He is the future of the party.”

Michael Steele, in other words, would be an affirmative action pick.

I don't mean that as a knock on Steele. Much the opposite. I think that Steele demonstrates the way that affirmative action makes sense as a component of meritocracy. Republicans know that they can't keep winning if they get dominated competing for American youth and American Blacks. Ta-Nehisi Coates loves to harp on the point that African-Americans aren't actually that liberal, they just view the GOP as a racist party. Nominating Steele to the chairmanship of the party helps counter that sentiment, thus accomplishing something of tangible worth that they can't get with yet another old White dude. If Democrats, deciding they needed to work harder to appeal to Appalachian Whites, nominated someone like Heath Shuler or another Democrat with demonstrated appeal to hard-scrabble, mountain Whites, nobody would question his qualifications (they might question the strategy), even though Shuler is roughly as obscure as a one-term Lieutenant Governor of Maryland who got mauled when he made a bid for Senate.

Of course, whetheer Steele will succeed in appealing to young or Black voters is a dicey proposition. But the thought process is affirmative action personified, and not in a bad way.


Anonymous said...

It is entirely possible that Steele was picked because he is black and the gop wants to appeal to blacks, hispanics, asians, indians etc without backing that skin appeal with any related policy. that would be affirmative action as you rightly point out.

However if Steele is actually picked because he has some policy or message that targets well to minorities and youth and understands that the gop needs to actually invest in policies that appeal to these groups then he is not an affirmative action pick. The mindset is a qualification and the skin color is a side asset. African Americans and the young are not stupid so if steele is simply chosen for his skin and has no policy proposals designed to help those groups it will probably backfire.

Steele seems just as qualified as the next person to take over the rnc because no one on that team looks to be an obvious choice. If Steele is actually intent on targeting the young and the minority then he light years ahead of the rest of the gop and would actually be a good choice.

PG said...

However if Steele is actually picked because he has some policy or message that targets well to minorities and youth and understands that the gop needs to actually invest in policies that appeal to these groups then he is not an affirmative action pick.

Well, does he have such a policy or message?

I think Steele has a perfectly good resume for the job, and I've pointed that out elsewhere when people gibed that the RNC is just trying to get a black guy too. Steele's an experienced attorney, he's been chairman of the Maryland Republican Party, has 4 years of executive experience as lieutenant governor, he's chairman of GOPAC, he has a lot of media experience (albeit mostly on Fox News). Steele has been angling for the position since 2006.

I see a bigger problem in his being moderate on a few social issues: he opposes the death penalty, thinks Roe should be upheld as a matter of stare decisis, and doesn't necessarily toe the Ward Connerly line on affirmative action. To the extent the GOP is Palin's Party now, I doubt that such wobbliness -- particularly on abortion -- will be acceptable in the party chairman.

Superdestroyer said...

You would think that after the debacles of Alphone Jackson, Harriet Miers, Gonzales, and Rice that the Republicans would figure out that quota hire diversity appointments never work out.

The Republicans have to admit that blacks are a lost causes and that pandering to minorities loses more votes than it gets.

When black candidates have worked their up in the party and demonstrate competence, then it would be OK to give them positions of power.

But after eight years of the incomptence of the Bush Administration, promoting someone above their ability is the last thing the Republicans need to do.

PG said...

Why am I not surprised that superdestroyer considers Condi Rice a debacle, but not Rumsfeld, Bush, Cheney or any of the other white men who have shown much less intelligence than Rice?

Shorter superdestroyer: The Bush Administration has done poorly. It must be the fault of women and minorities!

Superdestroyer said...


I was using examples of minorities who were given their positions due to their race/ethnicity/gender instead of the best ability. Rumsfled was qualified to be Secretary of Defense (he had held the job before) but of course, screwed up to his own hubris. Cheney was seen as a qualified VP due his long experience in DC.

However, it is impossible for a party to argue against quotas, set asides, AA while promoting large numbers of unqialified minorities.

The Replubicans need to stay consistent with a conservative philosphy and pick the best person for the job instead of the quot hire.

PG said...

Interesting. So who had the "best ability" to be Sec.State?

Anonymous said...

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