The Republican National Committee is holding a forum to choose the next chairman of the group. Two contenders are former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele and former Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell. The two men have something in common; they are both accomplished speakers, they both make the rounds on the cable shows defending the GOP, and they’re both African-American.
Is it just a coincidence that the Republicans are considering these gentlemen and that they just happen to be the same race as the Democratic president-elect? Far be it from me to cast a cynical eye on the party that has heretofore been indifferent to the interests or votes of the African-American communities and achieved a good deal of their national standing over the last forty years by exploiting the Southern Strategy and just recently made headlines with one of the candidates for RNC chair, Chip Saltsman, handing out a CD of the GOP’s greatest hits, including “Barack the Magic Negro.” But the emergence of Mr. Steele and Mr. Blackwell makes you wonder. After all, the GOP is not known for being pro-active; the selection of Sarah Palin for the vice presidential slot with John McCain wasn’t because they thought she was the best qualified candidate. That never entered into the equation. It was purely a reaction to Hillary Clinton not being chosen by Barack Obama, and Ms. Palin was rushed onto the national stage with great fanfare in order to step all over the end of the Democratic convention. They really didn’t plan ahead to what would happen if Mr. McCain actually won the election, and even if they did, they really didn’t care. They scored their political points, and that’s all that mattered.
Presumably both Mr. Steele and Mr. Blackwell are intelligent enough to know what’s going on here. Both are skilled politicians, so they know that if they become the chairman of the party that is seen as out of touch and tone-deaf about minority issues, they will be seen — by some — as a token of me-tooism sent out to represent the lily-white GOP. If it doesn’t matter to them, fine. But if the Republicans continue to move further to the right and lose more elections, it really doesn’t matter who the chairman of the party is or whether or not he is African-American or Indian or whatever; it’s the ideas — or lack of them — that are killing them.