As the Bi-Centennial of the birthdate of the 16th President of the United States–Abraham Lincoln of Illinois–approaches, just days after the incumbent, the 44th President–Barack Obama of Illinois–took his Oath of Office with his hand on the Lincoln Bible, the comparisons abound.
But there is one comparison which may look like it’s similar to that of the time of The Great Rail-Splitter, which is decidedly unlike that time. One of Mr. Lincoln’s Republican Party contemporaries was runaway slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who hailed from Maryland’s Eastern Shore and lived right here in Washington, D.C. Today, there is a prominent Black Republican leader from Washington who once served as the lieutenant governor of Maryland.
But that’s where the similarity ends.
After six grueling votes, Maryland’s Michael Steele was elected Chairman of the Republican National Committee Jan. 30. Mr. Steele, who unsuccessfully sought a seat in the U.S. Senate in 2006, is the first Black man to lead the GOP.
The new African American RNC chairman won 91 votes to Katon Dawson’s 77. Mr. Dawson is the GOP chairman of South Carolina, who only cancelled his 12-year membership in the Whites-only Forest Lake Country Club in September, just weeks before the presidential election. Ohio’s former Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, who is also Black, was also a candidate.
By recent Republican standards Mr. Steele is considered a “moderate.” And he definitely was the pick of this year’s Grand Ole Party Litter. Even the other African American candidate has a tainted past. As Ohio Secretary of State, Ken Blackwell was an active co-conspirator in the Ohio 2004 election fraud which enabled Pres. George W. (for worst in history) Bush to steal his second, presidential election. His first theft of course was the much more widely discussed 2000 Florida, “hanging chad” election debacle.
And then, there was the candidate for the job Mr. Steele eventually won, who sent hundreds of Christmas greetings to people with a CD containing a song parodying the-then President-elect, called “Barack The Magic Negro,” sung to the tune of “Puff the Magic Dragon.”
Ha-ha-ha. Very funny. Not!
Moderate, Mr. Steele rarely mentioned that he was a Republican in his official senate campaign literature in 2006. He even circulated phony literature with prominent Maryland Democratic Party leaders appearing to endorse his bid. They had not. Thankfully, he lost that race.
With the confession that Bush Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice voted for President Obama after her predecessor Gen. Colin Powell openly endorsed the first Black major party presidential candidate, I would not be surprised to learn that Michael Steele–the former brother-in-law of Heavyweight Boxing Champion Mike Tyson–may have, in the secrecy of the voting booth, may have also cast his ballot for Barack Obama. But now, of course, I wouldn’t even ask him that question, and I wouldn’t expect an honest answer from him if I did.
But now, he’s a moderate no more. After his election, he offered a full-throated endorsement of conservative Republican orthodoxy on the president’s mammoth economic stimulus package meant to rescue to worst U.S. economy in 70 years.
“Let me start by saying, the goose egg that you laid on the president’s desk was just beautiful. Absolutely beautiful,” Mr. Steele said of the refusal by all House Republican members to vote for the $800 billion stimulus plan on Jan. 28.
“We’re going to say to friend and foe alike: We want you to be part of us, we want you to be with us, and for those who wish to obstruct, get ready to get knocked over,” the new chairman continued.
While the election of a Black Chairman in the face of President Obama may look good symbolically for the GOP, in the longer term, “it doesn’t necessarily mean anything, unless the Republican Party has taken it into its mind to change,” Dr. David Bositis, a senior researcher at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies told this writer.
“Unfortunately, they do not look like they’re ready to adapt to the changing circumstances in the country. They realize they have a problem, and I think the election of Michael Steele is something of an acknowledgement, that they realize that. But simply having a Black chairman with the old positions of the party, and more particularly, the base of the party, that is not going to improve the fortunes of the Republicans,” he said.
“The problem is that the core of support for the Republican Party are White Southern conservatives, and rural Western states–which some people call ‘the Mormon belt.’ Apart from those regions of the country, Republicans are in decline almost every place else.”
But Mr. Steele characterized his election as “the dawn of a new party. I think this is a remarkable moment – some say it’s historic,” he said Jan. 30. “It’s just one more step, one more bold step that the party of Lincoln has taken since its founding.” The “party of Lincoln,” indeed!