Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele has continued to be outspoken in the name of the Republican Party. On a recent appearance on MSNBC, Steele went out of his way to note that he feels that he's helped to increase diversity within the ranks of the Republicans.
"What I tried to do [as chairman] was to broaden the landscape over which we could play, go into neighborhoods where we needed to be in, but hadn't been in generations, and I think it made a difference," he said. "I'm very happy with what we got done."
Matthews noted that he rarely sees African Americans gathering together at Republican conventions, and Steele responded by saying, "We could have used a few more brothers in the house, there's no doubt about that."
Steele was not reelected as the chairman of the RNC this week, being replaced by Reince Priebus after seven rounds of balloting. Steele believes that his fellow Republicans will work with President Obama if he leaves the door open to do so. "I really believe they will run with him on certain issues," Steele said.
While some might see Michael Steele to be a puppet of the Republican Party, I don't quite see it that way. Steele represents a growing number of African American conservatives around the nation who've become disgruntled by the fact that the Democratic Party has long taken African Americans for granted. He also realizes that being a Republican does not take away his "Brother Card," given that black people come in all shapes and ideologies.
One of the things that Michael Steele has in common with President Obama is that both of them are black men in leadership positions who've been attacked and chastised by members of both parties, especially the Right Wing. Obama has taken a public lashing that is virtually unprecedented in American politics and many have attributed this excessive hatred to America's latent racial hostility. Steele has been heavily criticized by his colleagues and portrayed as a free-spending, incompetent buffoon who tends to say the wrong things in public. It is probably more than a coincidence that both of these men just happen to be black and it is also not a coincidence that they were both appointed at the same time. When Michael Steele appeared to be a sufficiently adequate "Anti-Barack," the Republicans were happy to have him. When they no longer needed a black man to try to prove they weren't racist, they booted Steele right out of his post.
The Republican Party has missed several opportunities to bring African Americans into the fold. The truth is that the black community is very conservative, particularly on issues such as abortion, gay rights, the separation of church and state and other things that Republicans hold near and dear. The problem is that the Republicans continue to cater to the very worst in the American people by allowing themselves to be guided by racist ideals disguised as conservative value systems. If the Republicans could gain a greater degree of understanding on issues such as affirmative action and social programs for the poor, they could attract quite a few more African American constituents (sorry, but I won't be one of them). But their determination to brand themselves as the party of the rich, white, male and powerful continues to serve as a liability. I don't like Michael Steele very much and I don't agree with him politically, but I like the fact that he is trying to civilize his overzealous Republican colleagues. That's a good thing.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and a Scholarship in Action Resident of the Institute for Black Public Policy. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.