Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
March 13, 2009
POLITICS: Michael Steele Needs To Admit He Is One Of Us

Blue SteeleWhat's the matter with Michael Steele? It's a question a lot of Republicans are asking these days. When the former Maryland Lieutenant Governor was elected chairman of the GOP, many of us who had supported more conservative candidates or more proven fundraisers at least felt good about one thing: because Steele is an impressive and at times eloquent public speaker who's been tested as a commentator on Fox News, we could be sure that whatever else happened, we were getting a guy who would be a good public face, spokesman and salesman for the party and its ideas. Instead, his comments on abortion, on Rush Limbaugh and other topics have ended up dividing Republicans, giving fodder to our enemies and generating one bad news cycle after another.

I think I can explain the problem.

A political party is a team. Like any team, it takes a lot of different role players to succeed, and everyone needs to know his or her proper role. With the exception of a sitting president, which the GOP currently lacks, no one person can really speak for, much less change, the views of the entire party (in fact, ask George W. Bush what happened to his immigration bill when he thought he could impose his own views on a party in which a majority faction didn't support them).

One important role, which Republicans have had trouble filling in recent years, is the blue-state Republican: politicians who have the skill to win office in states or districts where a majority of the voters are hostile to the GOP, its ideas, and/or its people. Blue-state Republicans don't necessarily have to be moderates or liberals (though most are), but they do have to have one critical characteristic: the ability to persuade voters to look at them for who they are and not judge them based on their perception of other Republicans/conservatives. Inherently, that is a job that requires me-first-ism and distancing from those other Republicans the voters don't like. A provocative icon of pure conservatism like Rush Limbaugh or a divisive social issue like abortion is a perfect foil for doing just that.

There's one simple problem: when you take someone who has instinctually internalized the art of distancing and you make him the putative spokesman for the whole party, you get the worst of both worlds: a guy who keeps putting his own image above that of the party faithful and their core beliefs, followed by the need to apologize and look like he's beholden to the very people he just tried, intentionally or just by instinct, to distance himself from. It's a lose-lose situation.

As you can tell from the discussion above, I hold no animus towards Steele for being who he is - a blue-state Republican - and frankly, one reason I was unenthused about him running for party chair was the fear that being an effective party chair would ruin his brand back home in Maryland, a state that could use a viable GOP. (This is the "Mitt Romney can't go back to Massachusetts" problem). But if he's going to turn things around and be a successful chairman of the party, he has to break from that habit of distancing. He is one of us now, one with each of the various groups that make up the GOP, from the committed pro-lifers to the Limbaugh fans to everyone else that people who hate Republicans love to sneer at, and and he needs to accept that. He can't represent all Republicans while running away from those Republicans; he can't treat anyone in the party that way. Only when he stops looking for distance and accepts that he's one of us will he be an effective spokesman for the party.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:32 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (23) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

In Steele's defense, He's in an uphill battle. The problem with the Republican Party is it's rife with Republicans.

Posted by: Berto at March 13, 2009 3:58 PM

Part of your problem is that you view the Democrats as your "enemy". Why? Will your "enemies" make ONE right decision during their 4-year tenure and more importantly, will you be man enough to admit as such when it happens? I guess not, if you have a warfare mentality...

Posted by: rous at March 13, 2009 4:46 PM

rous - Heh. My reference was to Steele's critics on the Left, who have been merciless as they invariably are.

Steele's job is to increase the relative electoral power of the GOP compared to the Democrats. That is a zero-sum job.

I have said good things in the past when Democrats were right (for example, I had kind words for Democratic governors who bucked their party by cutting taxes or those few Democrats who voted against the farm bill). It doesn't happen very often.

Posted by: Crank at March 13, 2009 4:55 PM

Will your "enemies" make ONE right decision during their 4-year tenure and more importantly, will you be man enough to admit as such when it happens?

I admire Crank for his amiability. It wouldn't matter to me if Botox Nan bent V. Putin over her knee and spanked him into a better attitude, I remember the last eight years and I intend to reinforce the concept of karma. So when I approve I'll just say nothing, if such a thing should happen.

Posted by: spongeworthy at March 13, 2009 5:18 PM

I believe in Karma too.
And so I look forward to Nuremberg II.

Posted by: Berto at March 13, 2009 6:07 PM

He should admit he's something he's not (white male pro-life anti-affirmative action anti-gay rights conservative)?

Posted by: samir at March 13, 2009 10:09 PM

Steele looked so good before he was chairman--presenting himself well, arguing effectively against the myrmidons of the left, and seeming to hold mainstream Repub beliefs. Since his elevation to head of the RNC he's made his primary mission gaining black support--basing his optimism (apparently) on the fact he is... well, black.

It doesn't work that way. To most of those Republicans who supported him race was not the issue. And the hope of getting black Dems away from their addiction to Democrat policies is slim in the short run--figure a generation, at least. Black Republicans are always elected and supported by white Republicans, never by black Democrats.

Posted by: Dai Alanye at March 13, 2009 11:46 PM

I agree. I support MICHAEL STEELE!

I supported him when he ran for RNC chair. He at least gets the big picture that we cannot just be the party of the south and the west. We need to take some of the cities back.

I'm sick of this criticism simply because he disagreed with the "Great and powerful RUSH". But Rush is just still a radio show host.

Steele and the GOP need to focus on winning elections again esspecially since Obama's poll numbers are going down.

We cannot just have Ronald Reagan Nostalgia forever we need to move forward. GOSH! GOP give this guy a chance.

Michael Steele is also calling for reforming our PRIMARY ELECTION systems so that stupid Iowa and New Hampshire don't go first all the damn time!

Posted by: Aaron at March 14, 2009 12:11 AM

RINO, just like the govenator Arnie, only diff is Arnie has bedroom problems with a Demo, he has to sleep with it.

Posted by: thiaCyn at March 14, 2009 12:43 AM

I agree. We need Nuremberg II for Clinton's support for unconstitutional gun control, and for the incineration of the babies at Waco.

Posted by: Ken at March 14, 2009 1:36 AM

Steele is just another Republican mistake. He is no Conservative. Most of those people in the states he seems to be courting are a lost cause anyway. Every time you think you can count on them they always vote the wrong way.

Posted by: J Kell at March 14, 2009 7:28 AM

We need a GOP that stands for Constitutional Government and Core Principles that made this country great. We need a GOP chairman that recognizes that the Mass Media is the enemy and is merely a tool for the Socialists/Facists that control the Democrat Party.

The National GOP just doesn't get it. Steele is trying to be "liked" by the Beltway Crowd and trying to be Democrat-Lite...The Beltway is the Enemy that is destroying the American Dream and burdening our future generations with huge debt.

A fair amount of conservative writers/pundits don't get it either.

Stand up for our God-Given inalienable rights or get out of the way. Stand firm in the face of withering fire. Get it?

Posted by: dowdaytrader at March 14, 2009 7:32 AM

Thing is, the GOP--like most American political parties--is supposed to be a consensus of ideas and ideals, shared principles and bedrock beliefs. If the leader of the GOP takes a 'nuanced' approach to accommodate a shifting middle and attract that equally 'nuanced' independent voter, then those bedrock beliefs--less government is better government, the culture of life, the inherent superiority of capitalism and free enterprise, the primacy of individual freedom and life outcomes based on freely made choices, et al, become largely moot. Without its ideals, the party loses its purpose, its reason for being other than as a means to attain political power, a sister to modern day Democratic Party elites. As chair, Steele must represent and defend those beliefs, or find another job.

Posted by: Troy Riser at March 14, 2009 11:31 AM

I think the party would gain tons of momentum if they became more liberal in social issues while regaining the small government fiscal responsibility title.

I am a conservative, but socially liberal if those people exist. Abortion and Gay rights especially are the two main topics I'm thinking of. I'm not saying be far left, but taking a moderate stance in those issues might sway independents who are socially liberal. The religious right would still be republican since moderate is still better than far left.

I think this is what Steele was trying to do until the Rush thing. The GOP needs to make a drastic change in philosophy and actions to get back the majority of votes.

Gays make up roughly 10% of the population, but probably a small 5-10% of them might vote republican (including me). If the GOP can appeal to maybe 30-35% instead, that's gaining around 2-3% of the total population which is the difference in many of the tight electoral states. The response might be conservatives won't vote for them, but elections are always about choosing about the least worst. Many conservatives said they wouldn't vote McCain but the base still rallied around him

Note: Numbers are made up but you get the idea

Posted by: Mark at March 14, 2009 1:38 PM

Gays already have the same rights that I do. The Bill of Rights. You don't have to be the "religious right" to believe that murdering unborn children is horrific and never a good idea. Even the atheists I know are really glad it didn't happen to them. McLame and milk-toast did not work out very well. If not for Gov. Palin, Mr. Reach-across-the-aisle would have been beaten worse than Walter Moredull was against Dutch. Conservatism wins every time it's tried.

Posted by: nivram1 at March 14, 2009 2:57 PM

When I read the comments for Crank's wing-nut fellow travellers, I have to wonder how we ever lose to these guys.

Posted by: Magrooder at March 14, 2009 3:41 PM

When I read the comments for Crank's wing-nut fellow travellers, I have to wonder how we ever lose to these guys.

Posted by: Magrooder at March 14, 2009 3:42 PM

They do not have the same rights. Would you get fired from your job because your heterosexual? I know someone who was fired because they found out he was gay. There are no laws in many states against discrimination against gay people in the workplace. You can't fire someone if they are black, but you can fire someone because they are gay.

I don't really care about the term "marriage" but a gay couple do not have the same legal rights as a hetero couple. For example it's nearly impossible for adoption in many cases, which is just wrong for both the child with no parents and humans who want to raise kids.

This is the stuff I'm talking about. People shouldn't have a harder life just because of their orientation.

Posted by: Mark at March 14, 2009 3:45 PM

Correction:
In order to make the last sentence of nivram1's post read factually, just change the word "wins" to "has been a complete failure".

Posted by: Berto at March 15, 2009 4:00 AM

It's an interesting hypothesis and there is a certain amount of data to support it.

For example, when Steele ran for Senate he gave an anonymous interview to the Washington Post in which he criticized President Bush for making things more difficult for Republicans in that election. Eventually it came out that it was Steele and he backed off his comments somewhat.

But when it came down to it and he debated Cardin on Meet the Press, I thought that he ran circles around Cardin. (Cardin effectively said that there was no possible good outcome in Iraq. Though he's now been proven wrong, he won't pay a price for his pessimism.) And he did it by backing the war and conservative positions generally.

Posted by: soccer dad at March 16, 2009 10:35 AM

I've heard Steele make too many cogent and logically sound arguments in the past to give up on him now. If he doesn't have the skillsets for being a great spokesman, no one does (early mistakes notwithstanding).

Posted by: tsmonk at March 16, 2009 10:59 AM

Magrooder, if you wonder how Democrats ever manage to lose to Republicans, you probably aren't reading enough places where most of the posters are liberals.

Posted by: Jerry at March 17, 2009 10:08 AM

Jerry,

I was being facetious. I do read the liberal blogosphere and the stupidity that comes through in both the posts and the comments can be breath-taking.

I also understand that Crank's ditto-heads are responding to over-the-top commentary on Bush, et al, the past several years (my own included). But, the content of the anti-Obama posts, especially this early in his Administration, are remarkably ignorant (in most cases), prejudiced (in some cases), and thoughtless (in nearly every case).

Posted by: Magrooder at March 17, 2009 1:29 PM
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