Steele yourself for more embarassment
Making fun of Michael Steele has become de rigueur for political observers across the ideological spectrum, and to be fair, it’s not hard to see why. His antics frequently come off as something out of Michael Scott’s political playbook. The recent launch of the RNC’s new website has provided Steele’s critics with even more ammunition, from the embarassing, error-ridden section on the GOP’s future to Steele’s personal blog, whose title has since been changed from “What’s Up” to the slightly less mortifying “Change the Game.” Steele’s fitful efforts to make the GOP more appealing to traditionally under-represented constituencies (read: minorities, young people) seem ham-handed and out of touch, which doesn’t bode well for his tenure as RNC head.
But look: if Republicans are to escape the specter of tokenism, Steele’s approach is a necessary first step in the right direction. The GOP typically ignores the constituencies Steele is trying to attract, so it’s not exactly surprising that his initial efforts are clumsy and counterproductive. But the answer is not, as some suggest, to stop trying. Engaging new voters takes effort. It will involve things like repurposing party history in a manner that doesn’t do justice to the actual historical record. Reimagining institutional mythology on the fly isn’t pretty, but it’s part of the necessary work of making the Republican Party more accessible.
Once upon a time, the Democratic Party was terrible on racial issues. They addressed this problem though a combination of cosmetic changes and substantive policy concessions. Obviously, the Republican Party hasn’t done much on the latter front, but making an effort to reach under-represented groups is a step in the right direction that could presage more substantive change. For that, Michael Steele deserves our encouragement. Or, as he might say, “props.”