Thursday, March 19, 2009

Michael Steele The One

The problem is not Steele (though he has made his share of unforced errors). The problem is the Republican Party! You can have the best party chairman in the world, but if the people don’t like the product or service you are offering, then the support will not be there.

Raynard Jackson

Michael Steele, the new head of the Republican Party, has been in office less than 50 days and he is already being set up to be the fall guy for the state of the party. On Friday, he will be criticized for the anemic fundraising numbers for March. Mind you that he became chairman on Friday, January 30 around 5:00 p.m.

He will be blamed if Republicans lose the March 31 special house election. The seat became vacant when NY governor, David Paterson (D), appointed then congressman, Kirsten Gillibrand (D) to fill the vacant senate seat of Hillary Clinton (she was picked by President Obama to become Secretary of State).

Now, let’s add a little context to the picture. As with any new chairman, Steele asked for the resignation of all the employees of the Republican National Committee. During the month of February, he had his transition team do a top-down review of the entire operation of the committee and to make recommendations on how to better run the organization.

Earlier this month, Steele began to announce his senior staffers. April will probably be the first month that he will have anything resembling a full compliment of senior level staffers in place. Then he has to hire staff to fill out the rest of the committee.

Now, let’s talk about the real problem. The problem is not Steele (though he has made his share of unforced errors). The problem is the Republican Party! You can have the best party chairman in the world, but if the people don’t like the product or service you are offering, then the support will not be there.

Conservatives represent about 30% of the Republican Party, but exercise a disproportionate amount of influence within the party. Even if all 20 million of Limbaugh’s listeners voted Republican, it is not enough to win a national election.

So, when Michael made his comments about abortion in GQ magazine, he was being pragmatic. I have known Michael for close to 20 years and he has always been pro life. But what amazes me about my more conservative friends who went apoplectic at Steele’s comments is: they are quick to say that he is a party chairman who happens to be Black (not a Black party chairman). But, when it comes to ideology, these same people claim that he is a conservative chairman not a chairman who happens to be conservative. What hypocrisy. So, let’s get this straight, Steele is only chairman of 30% of the party and not the remaining 70%? This is the fundamental problem with the party, either you agree with us (the 30%) on all the issues that we care about or you are not welcome in our party (the 70%).

Michael understands that he must bridge this gap in order to put together a winning coalition. That’s what he was trying to say (however ineptly) in the GQ story. Most of the large contributions to the RNC come from pro-choice Republican corporate executives, not conservatives. They tend to give in smaller amounts and account for a good portion of the direct mail contributors ($ 10 and $ 20 amounts).

If the Republican Party was run like a business, it would be bankrupt. One of the keys to any business’s longevity is the ability to adapt to the ever changing business climate. Like Blacks within the Democratic Party, conservatives act very emotionally sometimes and not strategic.

After the 1990 census Republicans joined with Democrats in pushing for more Black and Hispanic congressional districts, thereby guaranteeing a Republican takeover of congress in 1994. So, minorities got what they wanted but at the cost of their majority in the house and senate. Similarly with conservatives, you mention abortion and they lose their minds. As a Republican candidate, conservatives would much rather see you lose if you are not pro-life; rather than see you win if you agree with them on 80% of the issues.

When McDonald’s Hamburgers open stores in China, they adjust their menu to reflect cultural differences. That’s just smart business. But, Republicans would go to China and tell them they have to change their culture to fit the Republican approach to business.

Changing this mindset is going to be Michael’s biggest challenge. He understands the necessity of broadening the party. As with any change, there are winners and losers. Those losers are the source of most of these anonymous quotes in the media and they are hell-bent on tarnishing Michael’s reputation and weakening his support within the committee. These are the outside consultants who used affirmative action (their relationship with party insiders) to further their own business interests. Michael ended all of these contracts once he became chairman.

Now it’s time to affirm Michael’s actions of creating a new paradigm with fresh faces and new voices. I hope Black Republicans like Lynn Swann (ran for governor of PA), Michael Williams (currently chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission and U.S. senate candidate), will finally speak out and embrace Michaels efforts to change the face of there party. That’s why I support Michael Steele!

Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a D.C.-based political consulting/government affairs firm. You can listen to his radio show every Saturday evening from 7-9:00 p.m. Go to to register and then click on host, and then click on his photo to join his group.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good comparison with Mcdonald's. That's what happens when businesses go to other countries to sell products, you have to tailor it according to the culture or risk doing taboos and fracturing the relationships.

The GOP should study what the Conservative Party in Canada and Britain have done in order to be conservative, but culturally aware of various groups and willing to change when necessary.