Requiem for a Clown

Reporting from the streetz—It’s awfully hard out here for an incompetent hustler if Michael Steele’s legion of woes are any reliable indication. The previously promising chairman of the Republican National Committee appeared on the Fox News Channel with Jenna Lee—God, I miss her on “Imus”—once more feeling compelled to let off some salvos at an ever-growing chorus of critics. Why else does he agree to pointless 8-minute cable news interviews that no one will see or remember? He surely knows that once the polite host has given him the opportunity to unload his ridiculous talking points, the conversation will immediately turn to the far more serious stuff: His buffoonery.

In a year when reactionary Republicans, in typical badass fashion, are preparing to storm the Capitol, the single most ironic thing is that the RNC is broke as a joke.

Steele’s is a remarkable fall from grace. I vividly recall being frightened by the talented Mr. Steele and his energetic campaign against the pedestrian then-Rep. Ben Cardin for Paul Sarbanes’ vacated Senate seat. Lt. Gov. Steele was an enthusiastic exemplar of the supposed Year of the Black Republican that was 2006. In an honest appraisal of political gamesmanship, the Steele campaign earned a cool two-finger salute for this.

Ultimately the pale Democrat prevailed because: a) All the hype in the world D.C. media orbit was not sufficient to overcome that year’s Bush-induced Democratic wave; and b) Mike Steele made the very unwise decision to select a reliably blue Maryland as his political home base. It’s the same dynamic that explains the tortured and insincere centrism of bright Democratic politicos in red states. So sad when that happens.

Given the recent history of the Republican Party’s scorched earth approach to racial affairs, it’s difficult for me to decide whether we should call the motivation behind Steele’s convenient elevation racism (we can also say cynical “tokenism” for the faint of heart) or sympathetic posturing in the era of a black Democratic president. And with the nature of America’s racial politics in mind, I can imagine why many Republicans would probably do things precisely the same if they could revisit Steele’s 2009 bid.

As condescending and stupid as they both are, I nevertheless have always understood the thought behind Joe Biden and Harry Reid’s impolitic attempts to praise Barack Obama in comparison to the numerous other black—and typically left-wing—politicians I immediately think of. Like the rabble-rouser from Brooklyn with the permed hair. Or Michael Steele.

But perhaps Mr. Steele’s horribly wanting leadership is the exception and not the rule. As a contrarian black liberal, I am heartened to know that the incoming reactionary caucus in the House of Representatives will at least have some unprecedented diversity. Four years later the Year of the Black Republican has apparently arrived. Despite their conservative politics, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, Gen. Colin Powell, Thomas Sowell, Justice Clarence Thomas, to name only four, have always been very near to my heart—partly because of the horrible treatment they have been specifically subjected to as black conservatives by paternalistic white liberals and black ones of that plantation mentality. The disgraceful antics of Messrs. Biden and the otherwise lovable Teddy Kennedy—no doubt with some high-end hooker’s lipstick smeared on his shirt collar—in 1991 disrespecting Mr. Thomas with inquiries about his alleged affinity for pornography, among other things, burn me up. And isn’t porn one of America’s most successful industries? If the mediocre are entitled to representation on the High Court, you would think these folk would be somewhat welcome as well.

Like the first black president, Mr. Steele was lent the keys to an important institution at its nadir by a desperate but hopeful people. And like the first black president he’s been an unmitigated disaster. So much for that. Once his term expires President Obama can at least retire to the island paradise of Hawaii with memories of reclining on Air Force One, redecorating the Oval Office, and groovin’ to Sir Paul McCartney in the East Room.

All Chairman Steele will get is a box of chocolates and some boring K Street gig. Poor that.


Tags: Michael Steele, Republican Party, 2010 midterms, Black Conservatives, clarence thomas (all tags)


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