Saturday, January 31, 2009

Steele for salvage

Michael Steele is the newly minted chairman of the Republican National Committee. The former Lieutenant Governor of Maryland is being hailed far and wide, by right- and left-leaners alike, but I don't see Steele -- or the GOP -- succeeding any time soon.

The party's intractable base simply won't allow it.

Here's a bit of what the RNC's first black chairman said in his acceptance speech:
"To our friends, to those who support us, to those who believe in the ideals, those conservative ideals that make us the strong, proud party that we are. To Americans who believe in the future of this country, to those who stand in difference with us, it's time for something completely different, and we're gonna bring it to them.

"We're gonna bring this party to every corner, every boardroom, every neighborhood, every community and we're gonna say to friend and foe alike: 'We want you to be a part of this, we want you to work with us, and for those of you who wish to obstruct, get ready to get knocked over."
Now take Steele's ambitious, principled inclusion and inject it into the heartbeat of today's Republican Party -- old, white and Southern, exclusive and evangelical, nostalgically conservative and obsessed with raising Ronald Reagan from the dead.

It's hard for me to imagine a peaceful union between the base's backward-looking "return to conservative principles" and Steele's vision of "something completely different."

Steele definitely understands what he's up against:
"We have an image problem. We've been mis-defined as a party that doesn't care, a party that's been insensitive, a party that's unconcerned about minorities, a party that's unconcerned about the lives and expectations and dreams of average Americans."
He also knows where much of that "image problem" comes from:
"Rush (Limbaugh) will say what Rush has to say. We will do what we have to do as a party to make sure that our message... (is) very clear and unambiguous."
The party's Marginal Misery Tour will continue as long its leadership allows the klaxons of talk radio to define it. Until Republicans get a firm grip on political reality, recognizing that today's "average Americans" aren't just white Christians in Tupelo, Tulsa and Tallahassee, the Grand Old Party will be relegated to gadfly status.

Michael Steele is the right guy for this political salvage operation. I just don't believe that his party will let him do his job.