Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Nerve of Steele.

The appointment of Michael Steel seems to have done its job. Otherwise astute, reasonable observers seem to have bought into the idea that this is a good thing. That it is progress. Huh?

This all takes me back eight years, to the floor of the Republican National Convention held here in Philadelphia. Crammed between the stage and the seating for the delegates was like being on the moon of Bizarro World. Up on the stage a parade of black and minority speakers and politicians gave the impression the party was a diverse, big tent. It seemed there were as many brown as white faces represented. Turning around, and facing the delegates presented a very different picture. I remember, at one point, trying to pick out a single black face in the crowd. One. I couldn't. reality there were eighty-five, but that's out of 2066 delegates. That's less than 5%. No wonder I didn't spot any.

Eight years later, in Saint Paul, the black delegates totaled thirty-six. Thirty-six out of 2304--well under two percent. How's that for progress? After the convention, Republicans produced some of the most divisive, racially charged rhetoric I have ever seen outside a Klan rally. Progress?

There hasn't been a black Republican member of Congress since J.C. Watts left in 2002. The last time the Republicans had more than one or two African Americans in congress was during Reconstruction. Progress?

Understand that blacks in Republican leadership positions are nothing new. Watts headed up GOPAC, "the premier training organization for Republican candidates for elected office," for over four years, succeded by--wait for it--Michael Steel. After Steel assumed leadership of GOPAC, he had this to say in an interview with Newsmax:
"I'm here to say we're dealing with a new type of political opponent — one who has learned and studied us very well as Republicans and has created great Trojan horses," said Steele, who lost his race for Senate last year. "They come in and they run like Republicans. They espouse their perspective on a number of the core issues that Republicans have been successful on. On pro-life and gun control issues, these guys are hawkish as anyone else. That's how they've won, and that's how they're going to continue to win elections, unless we're prepared to expose the horse for what's inside."
Sound familiar? The Republican Party--white, suburban and recationary to the core--may think they've pulled one over on us. They espouse diversity. They feign moderation. They may have pitched a big tent, but they're sure not welcoming everyone inside. They may think they've pulled off a Trojan Horse, but are they really fooling that many people? Do we really have to, "expose the horse for what's inside?"

No, we don't. This isn't a Trojan Horse, this is Al Jolson. Of course, Jolson didn't think that by putting on a black face he was fooling anyone. Do the Republicans think they are? Are they that out of touch?

Maybe some are buying it, but I suspect not many. For now, there's just one token taking me for a ride, and it's not made of Steele.