"If ever there did exist within the GOP such a thing as a music director, i.e. conductor that had the skills and know how to provide a harmonious melody to this musical ensemble, it is the Party’s new Chairman Michael Steele"
By Richard Ivory
A friend once summed up the GOP’s minority and urban problem by saying that “while most people in the world like music, different songs have different meanings to different people. The GOP has become a one-hit wonder acting as if there is only one song and one tune. We need to be playing tunes that resonate with different people.”
The person saying this was not suggesting the Republican Party give up on music and instead, read a book; but that it begin to expand its overall collection of songs. If ever there did exist within the GOP such a thing as a music director, i.e. conductor that had the skills and know how to provide a harmonious melody to this musical ensemble, it is the Party’s new Chairman Michael Steele.
Laughed at and mocked by the media for his “unorthodox” approach to getting the Party’s message out and his willingness to embrace such terms as “Hip-Hop Republican,” Steele has become an easy target for some on the left and on the right. In lieu of such attacks Michael Steele has taken a Jay- Z “dirt of your shoulder” approach to such ridiculous taunts — and rightly so.
Some years ago, while still relatively new to politics, I began looking for an internship in Washington DC to help me to become more familiar with politics. I remember looking in the City Paper, which is DC’s version of The Village Voice, for something. My eyes settled on a group calling itself the Republican Youth Majority. Given the liberal leanings of The City Paper, I thought the ad to be a bit odd. At this point, I was not a Republican but I knew that I was not a Democrat.
Growing up, I saw many of the problems other urban youth have lived through especially in the inner cities. Most of these problems stemmed from bad public polices of which Democratic authorship was on most, if not all, of them. This is not to say that the Democratic Party itself was corrupt, but that the individuals who were promoting ineffective polices were never challenged.
The Republican Party of course was nowhere. The Democratic Party became the only party in town. Consequently, people saw elections only in the context of a Democratic primary. Despite my seeing a corrupt government, it was not a wholesale rejection of government. Mother Theresa once said, “If we must ask why there is so much evil in the world then we must equally ask why there is so much good.” I saw government as having the potential to do good things, but it also had the effect of disempowering people.
Ideologically it was about this time that I found myself looking to intern in DC and happened upon the ad for the Republican Youth Majority. I scheduled a meeting with its founder, offering my resume to him. I explained to him that I was not sure what Party I should be affiliated with. RYM, nevertheless, opened its door to me allowing me to intern for the summer. It was during my time at RYM that I was invited to hear the Chairman of The Maryland GOP speak. I had no idea who the person was and could have cared less given the previous weeks of bland and out- of- touch speakers. The speaker was Michael Steele!
When Steele entered the room, a strange thing occurred that rarely happened at previous RYM events: a crowd of young people of all ages literally surrounded him and began to get his autograph.
During his speech, I waited for the usual Republican talking points, but this time the talking points were different. They hit home. I did not only understand Steele but I also felt what he was saying. Instead of talking about States Rights, Steele spoke of personal empowerment. Instead of speaking down, he encouraged Republicans to uplift those less fortunate. He spoke about the struggles to create a nation that reflected Martin Luther’s King vision of world based not upon race but merit.
Steele’s speech left a great impression on the many young people present including me. Years have past since that speech. Many of those young people who listened to Steele speak have moved on to do other things. I can tell you this: They are all still fans of his. He was for many of them the first real politician who seemed somewhat approachable in an often stuffy and politicized Washington DC. In a city as political and partisan as DC, such character is less then welcomed. Never the less the future of the Republican Party has and remains with Steele.
Say what you may about his style, the man is genuine and unquestionably capable.
~Richard Ivory is the Founder and Publisher of HipHopRepublican.com, a centrist blog that delves into urban issues from the Republican perspective. He has worked on over a dozen political campaigns around the country and has worked for both the Republican National Committee and was the College outreach director for the Republican Youth Majority.