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Michael Steele says something... sensible?!

By Lee Hockstader

It's a measure of Michael Steele's low standing with his party, and of the GOP's dysfunction, that when the man finally says something sensible, his own party immediately labels it a gaffe.

Steele, who famously pledged to bring hip hop into the hallowed halls of Republicanism, has mostly distinguished himself with comments by turns wacky, self-righteous and out-to-lunch. But in a speech the other day at DePaul University in Chicago, he accurately diagnosed one main reason that African-Americans vote overwhelmingly for Democrats: "For the last 40-plus years we had a 'Southern Strategy' that alienated many minority voters by focusing on the white male vote in the South," he said.

As my colleague David Weigel points out in his blog, "Right Now," most Republicans, if they recognize the "Southern Strategy" existed at all, insist it ended long ago. And some immediately objected to Steele's departure from that orthodoxy.

I imagine it's not exactly eye-popping news to black voters that the Republican Party is overwhelmingly the preserve of white voters, particularly white Southern voters. The only surprise here is to hear it from Steele, who's usually about the most substance-averse American politician this side of Sarah Palin.

Of course, Steele's rare moment of candor begs broader questions about the party, his own role in it, and his strategy for GOP success. For at the same time as Steele is accurately diagnosing the Republican history of hostility to blacks, he is also giving a big shout out to the lily-white Tea Party movement, whose adherents' barely-concealed hostility to society's less fortunate members do not make it a major selling point for the GOP. "Embrace them," Steele said he has instructed Republican state party chairs. "Welcome them. Talk to them. Those activists have become a very large part of our voting bloc."

Okay, black voters: Are you feeling the love from Republicans now or what?

By Lee Hockstader  | April 23, 2010; 11:17 AM ET
Categories:  Hockstader  | Tags:  Lee Hockstader  
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Comments

"For the last 40-plus years we had a 'Southern Strategy' that alienated many minority voters by focusing on the white male vote in the South," he said.

Michael, if you believe this to be true, why are you "performing" your best blackface routine for the GOP? What's with the "we" reference in the above statement? "They" sent "you" out to recruit white Southern males?

Posted by: mrobertson011 | April 23, 2010 11:40 AM | Report abuse

I guarantee he will be forced to retract these remarks.

Posted by: koolkat_1960 | April 23, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

The Republican party is finding out that it's really hard to control a black man, even if he's yo' boy.

And especially one that is confused...regardless of his name.
***

Posted by: Evenfoolsarerightsometimes | April 23, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Every time that Michael Steele appears
before a microphone it is a regular
"dog and pony" show. The man speaks from
both sides of his mouth.

Posted by: embryo1 | April 23, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

If Steele is part of the GOP, then he's part of the problem. How can he support a party that wants nothing to do with black folks? Mind boggling. Just as are the Log Cabin Republicans.

Posted by: jckdoors | April 23, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Steele is an enigma. I want to root for him, but he's a Republican. He's not so much pro-Tea Party as he is pro-Republican politics. I wouldn't expect him to be so taken with the Southern Strategy. He may be considered an Uncle Tom just for being a Republican, but he was at one point a moderate one as Lt. Governor, back here in MD. A dumbass, sure, but not zany like Palin. Every now and then, you'll catch him being too honest for Republicans. It's too bad they try to conceal so much; he wouldn't blurt stuff out if they didn't do that.

Posted by: fbutler1 | April 23, 2010 1:36 PM | Report abuse

A gaffe, according to Slate founding editor Michael Kinsley's classic definition: He accidentally said something true in public.

Is this a case of accidentally on purpose? If so, this brings the gaffe to a whole new level, so truthful, no one can believe you really meant it-- accidentally or not. As in the saying, "I can't believe my ears."

Posted by: Jeff-for-progress | April 23, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse

The Republicans are having a hard time trying to control that black man, even if he is yo' boy...

...and especially if he's a confused one... like Steele apparently is. HA!
***

Posted by: Evenfoolsarerightsometimes | April 23, 2010 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Just read an excellent book about the Southern Strategy and Reagan's manipulation of racism and racial fears, particularly in Mississippi. It's called "In Search of Another Country: Mississippi and the Conservative Counter Revolution," by Joe Crespino, a history prof at Emory. Good read, sad story. Check it out!

Posted by: osullivanc1 | April 23, 2010 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Michael Steele said even he himself, as a Black man and pretty previleged, still doesn't have any reason to vote for the GOP.

Or, otherwise, he indirectly said he believes he is NOT a Black man!

Posted by: HerLao | April 23, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

My 5 year-old kid I don't have said that last week. He also said the sky is blue and water is wet. The only people who don't acknowledge this as a proven fact are the ones trying to tell you everyday that up is down and black is white: The G-No-P.

Posted by: DAMNEDGENTLEMEN | April 23, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

The Oreo has spoken!

Posted by: crossroadsnow | April 23, 2010 3:14 PM | Report abuse

The author writes "...For at the same time as Steele is accurately diagnosing the Republican history of hostility to blacks..."
Does anyone see any difference between this and the tea freaks?

Steele IS an enigma. I love to hear people say what they really know, feel and sense. I applaud your remarks, Mr. Steele. Hope it somehow advances things for your cause. Truth has a way of doing that. I know you feel better for having gotten that off your chest and can look at yourself in the mirror without such discomfort.

Posted by: jfern03 | April 23, 2010 3:17 PM | Report abuse

As more and more African American voters move into the the upper classes, they are becoming more politically conservative and no longer the victims. That ship has sailed. The demoncrats now need to bring in more and more illegal aliens so that will have a voting constuency.

Posted by: bobilly1 | April 23, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Nixon began with the southern strategy to blunt Wallace and appeal to southern whites who were disaffected by the civil rights movement. Basically they were told it was right to feel as though they had been done wrong. That their racism was okay. That to vote against your economic interest to serve your racist leanings is a good thing. The republicans have been working with few exceptions to serve the southern master since. That is why they were so hot that Clinton won and then a black man. It is time for republican leaders to stand up and turn against this southern strategy. They might have a chance again. In November of 2008 the talking class said that Republicans were dead. In January of 2010 they were saying Democrats were dead. Obama is no dummy. I think he has been keeping his powder dry waiting for the time. Now is the time. Watch out Republicans he is about to hang your ideas around your neck.

Posted by: stevepj | April 23, 2010 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Shooting himself in the foot, while it's in his mouth again.

Posted by: Gates9 | April 23, 2010 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Black people "feeling the love" from that Southern White strategy is like walking through a field of land mines.

They will most likely get blown up to smithereens sooner or later.

Besides, look at Michael Steel.

That good ol' boy Southern White Strategy isn't turning out to be working too well for him, now.

Oh well, some learn and some don't.

Posted by: lcarter0311 | April 23, 2010 3:58 PM | Report abuse

republicans have lost ground EVERYWHERE because they are acting in the Country as in ARIZONA , like Racists Nazis an WHITE SUPREMACISTS, that's the what they pick to get the vote of the white population. Bun not all the White people are thinking that way. Their is a lot of WHITes DECENT, and not racists, to the contrary on what they think, the majority of whites are that way , GOOD DECENT, and not racists. SO If republicans want votes, they have to change their POCICY Tour to many things.

Posted by: rleb2002 | April 23, 2010 4:46 PM | Report abuse

republicans have lost ground EVERYWHERE because they are acting in the Country as in ARIZONA , like Racists Nazis an WHITE SUPREMACISTS, that's the what they pick to get the vote of the white population. But not all the White people are thinking that way. Their is a lot of WHITes DECENT, and not racists, to the contrary of what they think, the majority of whites are that way , GOOD DECENT, and not racists. SO If republicans want votes, they have to change their POCICY Tour to many things.

Posted by: rleb2002 | April 23, 2010 4:48 PM | Report abuse

Why doesn't the tea party have any black people?

Posted by: bs2004 | April 23, 2010 5:21 PM | Report abuse

Did he clear these comments with Limbaugh? I don't think so

Posted by: maxisgod | April 23, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

How many black republicans are there in the senate? And in the house of representatives? Answer: 0

I think Mr. Steele might have a point!

Posted by: jfern03 | April 23, 2010 5:56 PM | Report abuse

Yawn. A mindless partisan attacking the party to which he does not belong. Boring and useless.

Posted by: bobmoses | April 23, 2010 6:58 PM | Report abuse

Old news is no news because it's doesn't belong here after Steele got back into the fight. Steele had a moment of weakness because he put himself in the shoes of President Obama. The RNC chair is not a race position and neither is the Presidency which makes what Steele said a moment of race connection. There is no connection between Steele and President Obama. Steele tried to relate and saw he can't put himself in the shoes of President Obama because of ideology and common sense. Race doesn't even connect Steele with President Obama because race ties can be disconnected if there is not sense of right and wrong. President Obama has no sense of anyone's existence but his own.

Posted by: houstonian | April 23, 2010 7:32 PM | Report abuse

Liberals recruit black voters by making them believe they can't support themselves without government handouts and by trying to convince them that Republicans are against black people. How is that not disgusting?

There are plenty of black Republicans and plenty of blacks in the Tea Party movement. Liberals think that if they keep repeating the opposite that it will become true when I am willing to bet that the number is growing.

Only those drinking the Kool-Aid believe these lies. What are the liberals going to do when lies and name calling don't work any more?

Posted by: lashadow1 | April 23, 2010 8:30 PM | Report abuse

houstonian, you win the award for the most nonsensical, gibberish-filled post of the day.

Posted by: koolkat_1960 | April 23, 2010 9:56 PM | Report abuse

lashadow: "There are plenty of black Republicans and plenty of blacks in the Tea Party movement."

LOL plenty. You have a pretty strange definition of plenty, numbnutz.

Posted by: koolkat_1960 | April 23, 2010 10:04 PM | Report abuse

As much as I dislike what Steele has represented thusfar, this is the most "real" thing I've ever heard him say. If he were like this all the time, I might give him more credibility. However, I suspect he will feel the wrath of the Republican Party over his words and will be forced to "explain what he really meant" aka caving into their pressure to tow the party line. Just watch. Tomorrow he will be 'spaining himself to their satisfaction.

It's too bad. This is honesty beyond the RP's comprehension. But then again, their majority is made up of predominatly old, white men who grew up in a era of discrimination and bigotry. They have passed that on to their children - who follow suit because they don't have any other model to follow. Very sad. So very, very sad.

The Republicans could be a good party...a part of the "checks and balances" required in a democracy. But they have gone extreme and they have lost all hope of credibility. For the sake of being in power and lining their pockets. Not for the best interests of the American people.

Posted by: Sofie230 | April 23, 2010 11:47 PM | Report abuse

As much as I dislike what Steele has represented thusfar, this is the most "real" thing I've ever heard him say. If he were like this all the time, I might give him more credibility. However, I suspect he will feel the wrath of the Republican Party over his words and will be forced to "explain what he really meant" aka caving into their pressure to tow the party line. Just watch. Tomorrow he will be 'spaining himself to their satisfaction.

It's too bad. This is honesty beyond the RP's comprehension. But then again, their majority is made up of predominatly old, white men who grew up in a era of discrimination and bigotry. They have passed that on to their children - who follow suit because they don't have any other model to follow. Very sad. So very, very sad.

The Republicans could be a good party...a part of the "checks and balances" required in a democracy. But they have gone extreme and they have lost all hope of credibility. For the sake of being in power and lining their pockets. Not for the best interests of the American people.

Posted by: Sofie230 | April 23, 2010 11:47 PM | Report abuse

The only reason the Republicans elected Michael Steele is to hide behind his coat tail & spew the racist venom to bash Obama, without looking racist. If accused, they can turn around & say "Who...me...racist? Our party chairman is black". Michael Steel is not ashamed of being used bash an other black guy.

Posted by: sarvenk63 | April 24, 2010 9:06 AM | Report abuse

Yassa massa, I'ze sowry!

Posted by: dave57 | April 24, 2010 5:06 PM | Report abuse

I'm truly embarrassed for the folks who feel compelled to vent their racist spleen with hateful and derogatory remarks towards Mr. Steele. In the online environment, it's easier to be so hateful than it is , in real life, to enact the meaningful change you seek.

Though I fail to see how ANY minority group could possibly seek to be part of the modern GOP, let's at least give Mr. Steele credit for trying to be the moderate, inclusive voice.

Posted by: Avi1968 | April 24, 2010 10:39 PM | Report abuse

Nice piece of race-baiting, Lee.

The problem with liberals like Hockstader is that they will do anything to keep African-Americans on the liberal "plantation". Their solution? Convince African-Americans that racism is ubiquitous and that African-Americans cannot possibly succeed in this world without public benefits and special preferences...supplied by Democrats.

So tell me who is more racist -- Republicans who advocate for equal opportunities for all people, or Democrats who advocate learned helplessness in the African-American community?

Posted by: diehardlib | April 25, 2010 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Micheal Steele says something that is true but it is so hard to comprend. He has been the 'TOKEN' for the republican party for so long, when truth comes across his lips he has no way of stopping it.Micheal, Rush will have you backing away from this truth in no time.

Posted by: carolynlebeaufyahoocom | April 26, 2010 10:43 AM | Report abuse

Those who resort to juvenile name-calling are immediately discredited.

It is most interesting that the racist comments aimed at Michael Steele and the Republican Party are from those not in the Republican party. They may be a small percentage, but independent minded folks in the Republican party who happen not to be white have the same values and ideas and look beyond superficial physical characteristics such as race. Too many people blindly follow and parrot the speech of others rather than find out for themselves or allow themselves to be open minded to listen and learn and then make their own judgements. So, who are the racists? I know who the hypocrits are.

Those who so vehemently criticize the Tea Party movement do not participate in the movement. How do they know what the movement is about? Because they saw a video on You Tube? Protesting the financial irresponsibility of the federal government transcends the superficiality of race, sex, party, religion, and any other irrelevant grouping that the Democrats use to divide and conquer.

What is so compassionate about crippling generations by telling them they cannot take care of themselves, that they are depended on government support because otherwise they would be homeless and starve to death? The Democrat Party does not empower people. It enables them to be more and more dependent -- on the Democrat Party.

Who encourages the individual and his/her family to be financially secure and to live according his conscience and values without the overreaching, unconstitutional, and destructive policies that create a welfare state that is neither compassionate nor feasible? The answer is the classic liberals of the Republican party who support economic and political freedom for the individual as espoused by John Locke, Adam Smith, John C. Calhoun, W.E.B. Du Bois, Louis Brandeis, and Theodore Roosevelt.

Providing everything to everybody sounds great, except when the provider collapses, namely the federal government. Then, what will you do? You don't know how to do for yourself because you were never required to do so. You become an orphan.

This country was not founded and did not prosper on that kind of dependent thinking. It was the courage and strength of the independent individual who told the government to get out of the way, which is what the Tea Party movement is saying: stop obstructing our efforts to be independent and prosper. Stick to your job description in the U.S. Constitution and we all will be better off.

Posted by: duffy91 | April 26, 2010 2:40 PM | Report abuse

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