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Plastic Steele

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By LaShawnda Jones

In a GQ interview with Lisa DePaulo, the new Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele gave some interesting insight on how he thinks about issues and what he thinks about being the GOP’s Great Black Hope. The adopted son of Roosevelt Democrats was influenced by Ronald Reagan and became a Republican. For a party with members who are incredibly robotic about towing the party line, Mr. Steele had a number of ideals that diverged from that line. For that reason alone, I was intrigued enough to read further. However, as we have seen played out since Steele accepted the symbolic mantle of Republican leadership, Republicans do not appreciate, expect, nor want independent thought and opinions from its members – most certainly, not its leaders. They are not interested in the democratic principle that upholds social equality and respects individuals within a community. America is, after all, a democracy.

I must say, I like the fact that Steele appears to have his own view point, his own belief system based on his experience and history. I enjoy listening to him articulate those views; even if I don’t agree with his point of view. Why does membership in the Republican Party require negating or hiding your individuality?

I find it interesting that part of the definition of conservative is “to limit change.” So, here is the Republican Party attempting to combat change and pull themselves out of the 19th Century by doing something they’ve never done. They then turn and attack that same symbol of change they put in place because of their own fear of becoming obsolete and irrelevant. However, to their further dismay, their symbol of change and inclusion does not seem to comprehend he is a limited edition. The Republicans apparently intended a calculated change, not a revolutionary change. There in lies the source of RNC Chairman Michael Steele’s to and fro rhetoric.He has been put in the driver’s seat and actually expected to be able to drive. Like a man in a stalled car blocking traffic, he’s frantically turning the key in the ignition, pumping the gas, hitting the breaks, shifting gears and looking around to see if anyone is taking notice of his embarrassing situation. Only problem is, he’s looking at the people in the car with him, all of whom are just as embarrassed to be in the car that’s bottle-necking traffic. They’re blaming him because, “Hey, Steele, you’re in the driver’s seat! Make it work!” On lookers are thinking the car would probably start and go some where if you calmed down, think about your actions and try again.

The GQ interview was good in that it presented a multi-faceted man who is comfortable with himself, his ideals, where he comes from and who has a desire to improve the future of children with limited opportunity.

Steele said he intends to inform urban communities that the Republican Party not only cares for their well-being but the Party has similar entrepreneurial characteristics as people in urban communities. He intends to inform a disconnected public and urge further change within the fumbling Republican Party by “force of personality, force of will or [simply] by force.” Good luck with that, Mr. Steele!

Within hours of the GQ interview being posted online, prominent Republicans lambasted Steele for not parroting the Party “philosophies”. How impolitic of him to speak his mind and his feelings! The main comment taking center stage is Steele’s assertion that abortion is an individual’s choice. He commented that he is very grateful his mother chose not to kill him in the womb; instead she birthed him and gave him up for adoption. Although abortions were rather risky and life-threatening to the mother during the late 1950s (when Steele was conceived), it was an option. I am deeply offended by any Republican who voted for preemptive war ever claiming sensitivity to one man’s opinion about abortion. It doesn’t come off as sincere. Hypocritical is the word I’m looking for.

Unfortunately, Steele isn’t as strong as his name suggests. He wavers and back tracks on his comments. He drags his moments of clarity through the gutter almost as soon as his comments are played back for him. The day after the GQ article was posted, Steele affirmed his opposition to abortion and his support for a constitutional amendment to ban it.

I can see Chairman Steele wanting to maintain his individuality while playing politics in a party that only speaks and moves in constricted burdened manner. His perspective is different that that of the majority of republicans. As a symbol, he thought they appreciated that. As a man, he’s finding the Party still expects to limit and control all its members. I don’t see this ending well for Steele politically. It’s like he said in the interview about bipartisanship not working despite the Obama administrations’ determination, Steele and the Republican Party need to find a common ground for his public discussions. He thinks bipartisanship goes against the nature of American politics and is in favor of working with the other side if both sides are willing to sacrifice something in order to build on their common ground. It looks as if the party would be in favor of Steele sacrificing his individuality. His ability to think apart from the herd. The Republican Party may believe they already made the greatest sacrifice of all — they placed a black man in a prominent leadership role. What more could he want?

I’ve shared a couple quotes from the GQ interview that stood out for me.

Best quote:

GQ: How do you deal with the criticism?

Steele: I just pray on it.

GQ: You do?

Steele: Oh yeah. And I ask God, “Hey, let me show just a little bit of love, so I absolutely don’t go out and kick this person’s ass.”

Very True:

GQ: When Barack Obama gave the speech on race, did you agree with what he said?

Steele: I did. I mean, some of it. But my concern throughout this campaign was, people were treating him like he was going to be the Second Coming on the question of race. And because you have a black man as president doesn’t mean that tomorrow morning a black business is not gonna get redlined or a black family’s gonna be able to get their house. Those issues still exist. So the reality of it is, electing Barack does not necessarily change the underlying concerns and issues related to race. ... So my point is, just recognize that while the election is historic, while it is important, while it is transformative, it does not absolve us of having to deal day in and day out, in my life and your life, with the question of race.

So off the mark:

GQ: Are you saying you don’t want to overturn Roe v. Wade?

Steele: I think Roe v. Wade—as a legal matter, Roe v. Wade was a wrongly decided matter.

GQ: You still like Palin?

Steele: I do.

GQ: At the end of the day, did she help or hurt the ticket?

Steele: I think she helped immensely. I think, uh, people want to put it in the context of how the liberal media responded to her. They were threatened by her.

GQ: Why would the media be threatened by someone with appeal?

Steele: [Liberal media is] threatened [by Sarah Palin because] she has appeal. ... in my view, Barack Obama is a creation [of the media] ... This country still doesn’t know who this man is!

Tags: lashawnda jones

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