The late pundit Sam Francis regularly referred to the Republicans as “The Stupid Party,” and the Democrats as “The Evil Party.” The GOP has surpassed its stupid-is-as-stupid-does strategies by electing Michael Steele its chairman.
Steele has no proven skills as a businessman or as a political operative, nor is he the kind of populist conservative who can grow the party. He got the job via a GOP affirmative action gambit — he’s black.
GOP chairman Steele has the media elites fawning at new decibels. CBS’s Bob Schieffer commented: “So it was that the party of Lincoln, which had freed the slaves, but in the process had become the party of mainly white people, came full circle and turned to an African-American Moses to lead it out of the political wilderness.”
Steele is a neo-conservative (Karl Rove and Newt Gingrich are among his key backers) and contends he supports the invasion of Iraq even knowing there were no mass-destructive weapons there. On such issues as immigration Steele is also out of touch with Middle America. He claims: “There are any number of ways that you have to deal with [immigration]. Do you want to create a pathway to citizenship? Are you talking amnesty? … We can talk about the 12 million people who are here illegally. I think America will be much more receptive to that conversation knowing that no more are coming in.”
As an affirmative action Republican, Steele brings no business strength to run the GOP: consider his background.
After flunking out of Johns Hopkins University, Steele eventually graduated. After failing to pass the Maryland bar exam he was admitted to the Pennsylvania bar and finally in Maryland as well.
He ran for Maryland State Comptroller, placing third in the Republican primary. Despite legal troubles over an unpaid $25,000 campaign loan from his sister (former wife of boxer and convicted felon Mike Tyson), Maryland’s Stupid Party elected Steele its chairman, crowing that he was the only black serving in that position nationwide (um, so what?)
In 2000, he was appointed as the Republican Lt. Governor nominee in Congressman Robert Erlich’s successful campaign for Governor, notwithstanding revelations that Steele owed $35,000 in personal debt, had less than $600 in the bank, and that — in a highly unusual political tactic — the Maryland GOP paid him a “consulting fee” of $5,000 a month during his campaign. Again, there was much crowing that he was the first black to run for that office. In 2004, Steele accepted over $13,000 in campaign contributions from the board members of non-profit organizations shortly after Steele’s office had directed $250,000 in unrestricted grants to those same groups. According to a 2006 Baltimore Sun investigation, ethics experts and campaign finance watchdogs viewed the financial transactions as questionable and warranting further scrutiny.
In 2006 Vice President Cheney recruited Steele for a losing U.S. Senate bid—he earned 44% of the vote. Missteps in that campaign included hiring out of state homeless people to distribute fliers erroneously claiming prominent Democrats endorsed Steele. New investigations are focusing on $75,000 paid for campaign legal work never performed and $37,000 paid to his sister’s company, 11 months after her business closed.
Next, Steele was selected to run GOPAC, the national Republican political action committee established to seek out, train, and boost candidates for local, state, and federal office. His performance there was a mix of lax business management and lame political acumen. $125,000 was spent on overhead while monies for candidates totaled $50,000. Funds were invested in sure bet campaigns — incumbents receiving 67% of the vote — and equally certain losing candidates. One of the largest GOPAC donations was to Steele’s old U.S. Senate campaign to help pay its outstanding debts.
As The Stupid Party stumbles its way into irrelevancy by ignoring Middle American values and issues, Steele now insists that the GOP will no longer be “a party unconcerned about minorities.” But analysis of the raw numbers point to a different, more realistic strategy that’s right in front of the nose of the Republican elephant.
White voters still constitute more than 80 percent of the electorate. This means their share of the vote is 13 times the size of the minority vote. Adding one percent of the white vote is worth as many raw votes as gaining an additional 13 percent of minority support. Political strategy need not be based on one consistency being ignored at the expense of another, but practical wins are based on reality. George W. Bush did relatively poorly among whites, getting only 54 percent of their votes. By contrast, his father received 59 percent in 1988, and Reagan pulled 64 percent in 1984. Moreover, white turnout has been falling. In 1992, some 61.3 percent of whites over 18 voted; in 2000, turnout was down to 56 percent. These trends hurt Bush greatly because the Republican Party is fundamentally a white party. Virtually all of its votes—91 percent in 2000—come from whites. The evidence is very clear that the Republicans are failing to motivate their base. Apparently chairman Steele wants to lower the river rather than raise the bridge.
While Steele’s first days at the helm have been spent redecorating his office and falling into arguments with Rush Limbaugh over how many angels dance on pinheads, he offers no tactics for identifying, educating, and motivating the traditional GOP base. And that is not necessarily the so-called Christian Right: it’s those (mostly white) soccer moms and NASCAR dads who provided 64% of their support for Ronald Reagan’s election and 59% for George H. W. Bush’s base vote. John McCain did capture 57% of the white vote last year, but the turnout in that constituency was flat, while the black and Hispanic bloc votes grew at double-digit rates … and, predictably, went to the Democrats despite significant Republican courting.
So where does all this unctuous pat-on-the-back and guilt-ridden go-to-the-front-of-the-line Republican career advancement stuff do for a guy like Michael Steele? Speaking to CNN’s Don Lemon, Steele said he may decide to seek the presidency at some point if he determines that’s “where God wants me to be.”
“God has a way of revealing stuff to you, and making it real for you, through others,” Steele said., “and if that’s part of the plan, it’ll be the plan….[If I run] it’ll be because that’s where God wants me to be at that time.”
In the real world, Michael Steele is a sterling example of how affirmative action (promoting race-based mediocrity up the corporate ladder) is dumbing down efficiency in business — and now in politics.
A version of this article appeared in the May, 2009 issue of Middle American News