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What now for Michael Steele's new Republican Party?

Michael Steele the newly elected chairman of the Republican National Committee

In case you're one of the three or four American Republicans who have not yet congratulated Michael Steele for becoming the new chairman of the Republican National Committee, there's still a little time left.

As The Ticket noted earlier today, the 50-year-old former Maryland lieutenant governor became the first African American to head the party of the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln. It's always good to see more mustaches on public figures, a sign of great intelligence. Steele won 91-77 in a field of five at day's start. (See his video remarks below.)

Steele received congratulations from Govs. Bobby Jindal, Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, a ton of party state chairpersons, Reps. Eric Cantor and John Boehner, Sen. Mitch McConnell, a bunch of other senators, all Republicans and, shockingly, the entire Republican Governors Assn., among many others.

Steele even got congratulations from someone named Tim Kaine, a Democrat governor who just became chairman of the Democratic National Committee to build up his Washington credentials most likely to become President Obama's VP running mate in 2012, when Joe Biden will be too old to stand next to the Boss and not say anything.

There are two main purposes to such perfunctory political messages and neither has anything to do with the verbal boilerplate used about honored, delighted, pleased, yada-yada. The first purpose of issuing such a public congratulations, when you can simply just text or phone the guy yourself, is to ride the principal's coattails and get your own name in the news.

The second, less recognized, is to sigh silently to yourself, "Thank God, he got the job, not me."

Steele is a moderate conservative, well-liked, someone who listens well, despite his D.C. upbringing. He was known as a team player and team builder during his own days on the 168-member RNC. And he'll need all that to play a major role in maintaining the party's still impressive fundraising while rebuilding its structure, technology and morale after significant defeats.

Importantly, he's a very experienced and savvy media player who can put a fresh voice to the party often associated with old white guys opposed to stuff. If he's active and aggressive in that area, he can displace the political pretenders and showmen who tend to fill the leadership vacuum left when both George W. Bush and Dick Cheney walked out the door. At least Ronald Reagan left behind an experienced sitting vice president to hold the White House for four more years.

Steele's also going to have to count on the GOP's 22 surviving governors for ideas and successes and candidates; the GOP always does better nationally with a chief executive as its candidate, not a congressman, with all due respect to ex-Rep. Lincoln.

Whatever your political affiliation, it's important for an enduring democracy to have at least two functioning political parties for balance and the generation of challenges and new ideas. In that sense even the most excited and partisan Democrats have a vital stake now in the successful cyclical cleansing and reconstruction of the other party. 

We published the complete text of Steele's brief remarks here this afternoon. They're worth reading, the story of an inner city kid who rose in the ranks of politics and knows firsthand about exclusion. One of his goals is to broaden the Republican Party's base beyond the small towns, suburbs and South. One striking thing he said was:

We're going to bring this party to every corner, every boardroom, every neighborhood, every community, and we're going to say to friend and foe alike, we want you to be a part of us, we want you to work with us, and for those of you who wish to obstruct, get ready to get knocked over.

An indication perhaps that Chairman Steele intends to live up to his name.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo credit: Associated Press

Comments () | Archives (8)

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More lips service from the RNC about diversity - a black chairman given that black is in? Could the RNC have been less obvious? Desperation .. Mr. Steele .. all I can say is you are no Barack Obama .. try as you may to ride his coattails and capture the black vote.

Steele is a great choice - very good communicator, in the center, is articulate and a leader.

Wow - the republicans actually chose him? Nice job - he'll do well!

It definately shows a step back from civil liberties such as the 2nd amendment. Steele is on the record as saying: "What do you need an assault weapon for, if you're going hunting? That's overkill. But I don't think that means you go to a total ban for those who want to use gun for skeet shooting or hunting or things like that ..."

Like many Republican leaders of today, they are under an ignorant delusion that the 2nd amendment has anything to do at all with "hunting" or "sport shooting". It has to do with defense of self, community, nation and our laws. The Republican party continues to not "Get it" in terms of their constituant's concerns. We don't care what color they are, we want values and defense of our nation and it's constitution. Until they get the clue (as if this last election wasn't big enough a clue bat) they will continue to lose vs. Democrats.

While I wish Michael Steele good luck in his new position, I see his selection as a ploy for the GOP to make Blacks and other minorities feel like the party is suddenly pro minorities and anti racists.

Please color me "UNIMPRESSED".

Until the party adopts SUBSTANTIVE steps rather SYMBOLIC ones to address its INHERENT problems, it might as well be whistling DIXIE! OsiSpeaks[dot]com

Michael Steele is a gift from God. He has the ability to keep America from self-destruction.
Congratulations Michael.

The GOP, always one step behind the progressive democrats. Steele was always an intelligent, if controversial politician. Yet he was never given the light of day by conservatives. He was ignored with the rest of the Wives Association. But the moment millions of democrats elect a black man, the GOP suddenly finds it convenient to have their own as well.

Tokenism at its best.

Conn-gratulations to Michael "Uncle Tom" Steele, where was this guy last year? The GOP could have confused the heck out of those people voting for Obama if they would have just run Steele for president or VP. From the party that brought you, "lipstick on a pig," and somehow has the liberal media covering Sarah "I'm Just Going to Run My State" Palin's shenanigans in the Lower 48. What will they think of next? Wow, I'm so confused, I thought the Democrats were the party of black folks? Boy, those Republicans would have won the election with their own black candidate; too bad the last eight years (and twenty of the last twenty-eight) of Republican presidency(ies) has left the economy in a shambles and the War in Iraq is still going on otherwise the Rethugs were the ticket after all, right? And why hasn't Obama solved all our country's problems yet? What's that guy's problem? He's been president for a whole 14 days already. I guess we need to give him time to read some stories to elementary school children about pet goats and to cover his butt, now watch this drive...

The gop needs to persent a bill to do away with all the 36 czars Obama has and limit him to no more then 3. The taxpayers are footing the bill for all these people to advise Obama and is causing 75% of the problems America faces today. We didn't vote for them and do not wish to pay them with tax payers money to screw our lives as I have come to know it for some 58 years now. Impeach this guy for breaking the oath he took the day he was sworn in to pertect the constitution.

Thanks Wayne Suttles
North Port Fl.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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