Michael Steele is no Jack Kemp. The latter passed away yesterday, the former is already a political afterthought, who is not conservative enough for the right-wing of the Republican Party and who has driven away Arlen Specter and other moderates.
Jack Kemp and his former boss, President George H.W. Bush, were pragmatic conservatives under the Reagan mantra of creating a big tent where Republicans could openly dialogue with each other about the issues of the day. Reagan’s coalition, which included working-class Democrats and (gasp) Log Cabin Republicans, won three presidential elections and changed America from a policy of failed big government, record debt and crippling inflation, to twelve years of unpredented economic growth.
Last Friday, Michael Steele illustrated how far the Republican leadership has moved away from the Reagan – Bush (41) – Kemp brand of Republican populism. In wanting to get moderates to come back into the GOP fold, Steele said “Understand that when you come into someone’s house, you’re not looking to change it. You come in because that’s the place you want to be.”
Chairman Steele is under the impression that moderates need the Republican Party. Moderates have not left their fiscal conservatism; the right wing of the party have decided that they would rather lose and know that they were right, then to win and make policy. As a Republican in Maryland, I have seen this kind of narrow-minded, self-defeating behavior for the past twenty years.
I was a member of the State Central Committee when Congressman Bob Ehrlich and then State Chair Michael Steele laid down tough love to party members in 2001. The tone set down by Ehrlich / Steele was to stop whining, work together, and we can win. It worked for the MD GOP in 2002; it can work for the national GOP. President Reagan and Secretary Kemp have passed on. It appears that Michael Steele has some pretty big shoes to fill if he wants to bring moderates back in 2010.
Faculty, Department of Political Science, Towson University. Graduate from Liberty University Seminary.