Steele accidentally tells the truth

STEELE ACCIDENTALLY TELLS THE TRUTH…. It took a little while, but the recent turmoil that rocked the Republican National Committee subsided. In the wake of the lesbian-bondage-related unpleasantness, RNC Chairman Michael Steele was weakened; the party parted ways with key staffers; and donors recoiled, but the storm eventually blew over.

Now, Steele can get back to business, and get beyond damaging distractions, right? Well, not just yet.

Why should an African-American vote Republican?

“You really don’t have a reason to, to be honest — we haven’t done a very good job of really giving you one. True? True,” Republican National Chairman Michael Steele told 200 DePaul University students Tuesday night.

Now, Steele’s assessment happens to be accurate. Has the Republican Party given African-American voters a reason to support its candidates? By any reasonable measure, no.

But the head of the RNC isn’t supposed to make these kinds of concessions publicly. Put it this way: what does House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) say today when a reporter asks, “The chairman of the Republican National Committee believes African Americans ‘really don’t have a reason’ to support GOP candidates. Do you agree?”

Indeed, if DNC Chairman Tim Kaine had made the same remarks, Republicans would be throwing a fit, accusing Kaine of using racially divisive language and playing the “race card.” It’s tougher to go ballistic when it’s their own party leader.

Making matters worse, Steele is compounding earlier gaffes on this front. Remember, it was just six months ago when the RNC chair conceded that some Republicans are afraid of him because he’s black.

There were some in the party who believed last year that picking Steele for the RNC job might help the party with minority outreach. Somehow, I suspect those who thought this was a good idea are less sure of this strategy now.

Postscript: From the same event in Chicago: “A student whose family had to move into a smaller house after spending $250,000 on heart surgeries for the student asked Steele what he would do to bring down health costs. Steele said tort reform would help.”

Steele is about as competent talking about health care policy as he is talking about race.

Washington Monthly - Donate today and your gift will be doubled!

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.