Steele for RNC Chairman
Sometimes, it’s easy to wonder if the Republican party really cares about winning elections. After his 2004 election, George Bush pretty much gave up on any sort of public relations campaign—he stopped trying to be a national leader and seemed to resign himself to rock-bottom approval ratings. The Republican Congress hasn’t been any better. It has displayed both corruption—Jack Abramoff and the Bridge to Nowhere—and political stupidity—think amnesty for illegal aliens.
The Republican National Committee hasn’t done a particularly good job either. In 2004, the Republican base was composed mostly of middle-aged to older white folks, people in rural areas, and “values voters.” After that election, the RNC announced that it would try to start drawing more minorities, particularly Hispanics, and young people to the party. It failed. Young voters, blacks, and Hispanics overwhelmingly voted Democrat.
It’s hard to see exactly what the RNC does, and I’m certainly not enough of an insider to know exactly where it went wrong. But by all accounts, the GOP get-out-the-vote operation was light years behind the Democrat effort, and its technology obsolete. (Apparently, in some areas Democrat operatives had interactive handheld “checklists” with which to check off voter’s names in real time, which let everybody involved know exactly who and who had not voted. I very much doubt the Republicans had anything like that).
Barack Obama is a political force that would be difficult for anyone, no matter how competent, to stop, but a more efficient RNC could have made things a bit closer, and maybe won a few House and Senate races. The stereotype of Republicans is that they are incompetent, out-of-touch elitists—and the performance of the RNC has pretty much lived up to those expectations.
It’s hard to imagine Mike Duncan staying on as head of the RNC—the disastrous 2008 election may not have been all his fault, but his performance as chairman definitely wasn’t strong enough to justify another term. The RNC will be needing new leadership—and Michael Steele might be the man to provide it.
One reason he’s the man to provide it is that he happens to be the only man running for the job right now (it is rumored that he could officially announce his candidacy this week), which does tend to cut down on the competition somewhat. (Newt Gingrich, apparently, doesn’t want the job). The only other well-known names that have been mentioned for the position are Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson, but neither has expressed any real interest. So Steele is in excellent position to get the chairman post (at least outwardly—for all I know, there’s some dark horse candidate secretly rounding up votes as we speak).
Steele is reasonably conservative, which is good. But he’s moderate enough to, at least in theory, reach out to independents, which is more of a mixed blessing—attracting independents is all well and good, but not if it comes not the price of diluting conservatism. This moderatism (Steele is both pro-life and pro-Rove vs. Wade, and has also talked about “restoring the Rockefeller wing of the Republican party) is probably the most serious objection to Steele’s chairmanship of the RNC.
But I think it is balanced by Steele’s articulateness and his image. Steele is frequently found arguing the Republican position on cable news, and arguing it quite well, which is more than most Republicans are able to do.
And he happens to be black, which really shouldn’t be a qualification, but does make for some good P.R. for Republicans (who need all the good P.R. they can get). Perhaps a black chairman might actually do something about reaching out to minority voters, who are a growing demographic and one the Republican party needs. Michael Steele ran a very, very strong campaign for a Maryland Senate seat (although he lost, so maybe it wasn’t as strong as the experts thought it was), so maybe the RNC could improve their get-out-the-vote efforts under his leadership.
Michael Steele isn’t a perfect candidate for the RNC chair, and there will probably be conservatives who oppose his leadership role, which I can understand. But I think he’s the best we’ve got—he is competent and he has ideas (which are in short supply at the RNC at the moment). The Republican party can’t afford another awful election—and under Michael Steele’s leadership, it might not have to.