If the GOP truly seeks to reach out to a constituency beyond Rush Limbaugh’s listenership demographic, they could have picked no better candidate for Republican National Committee Chairman than Michael Steele, the first African American to get that slot.
When Steele promises to bring the GOP up to speed in terms of technology, reach out to minorities and, by implication, not seem to be yet another top GOPer who seemingly gives the back of his hand to moderates and centrists, people believe him.
There are several reason why. And you can perhaps sense some of them by watching this ad from 2006….when he ran for Senator…as a change candidate. He even suggests in the ad that both parties deserve some criticism — and the word “CHANGE” is plastered on the screen at the end.
So, in the end, the GOP went with its better instincts and decided candidates handpicked by former President George Bush or candidates who distributed a satire song making fun of African-Americans or Latinos might be part of an era from which they seek to inch beyond (but will Rush let them?). Newt Gingrich is already elated.
Steele’s biggest plus: the camera loves him and he knows how to use the camera. He’ll be a highly effective face for the GOP:
Time notes that Steele’s task of reaching out to blacks may not be easy:
For example, only one major Republican candidate — Mike Huckabee — showed up at a candidates forum at historically black Morgan State University in Baltimore during the last campaign. There hasn’t been a single black Republican in Congress in years, and the party has struggled to elect even local candidates who are black. Against that backdrop, and particularly given Obama’s support among blacks and Latinos, “merely putting Steele in a high-profile position won’t change things overnight,” says Daryl Harris, a political-science professor at Howard University.
Recently, Steele put out a “Blueprint for Tomorrow” that indicated a determination to strike a balance between Republicans pushing to return to the party’s core principles and those who “claim we need to modernize to meet today’s reality.” Said he: “To my way of thinking, we must do both, and quickly.” In the blueprint, Steele clearly borrows key elements of Obama’s groundbreaking tactic for generating record levels of donations with innovative social-networking tools. He calls himself a “technology geek,” and already posted on the RNC’s main website is his “Network for the Future,” which features links to Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, LinkedIn and blip.tv. At the very least, Steele knows his party needs to play catch-up.
So he ran as a change candidate…is perceived as one of the more moderate members of his party..and he knows how to use technology and social networking. A perfect pick to counter the Democratic Obama era? But some Democrats say appearance may not match reality.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.