Two week’s ago, the Republican National Committee made history by electing Michael Steele, the first African-American chairman. My initial response was negative, I disdainfully rejected it, and referred to the party bosses as a “bunch of slick rich cats who detest black people.” My first inclination was to get irritated. Many pundits suggest that the GOP is cleverly playing the race card for their own benefit. A blind man can see what they are up to. The most important factor behind Steele being selected was the mere fact that he was black, and he could potentially neutralize President Obama’s fire and spellbounding impact on America. By selecting Steele, the RNC is also hoping that he can dismantle the monolithic support that Obama enjoys in the African-American community across the country.
Steele has the pedigree. He has been a lieutenant governor and he also holds degrees from John Hopkins and Villanova University, as well as a law degree from Georgetown University.
After much prayer and meditation, I now have a different perspective on Steele’s selection. He can’t hurt us, he can only help us.
The reality is even with an impressive resume, it is unlikely that the RNC will revive under his leadership. Steele’s presence can help black people get something tangible from President Obama’s administration. Most people agree that President Obama is the ultimate trailblazer. He has opened doors that many thought they would never witness in their lifetime. He has also provided inspiration to all who have felt locked out of the American system. Now this is indeed a major accomplishment, but is this enough? Should we be content, or should we seize the moment and aspire for more?
I personally think we should fight for more.
Surprisingly to many Obama supporters, only one of his 15 cabinet posts went to an African-American, Eric Holder, as new Attorney General. Now there is no reason to complain, the president didn’t have to give us that one single crumb. If you remember, when then Senator Obama campaigned, he never had to fight for the African- American vote. During the few times that President Obama campaigned in the black community, he went in to “preaching mode” and talked more about personal responsibility, rather than what his candidacy could provide for the community. Now that indeed was a great campaign strategy, and it certainly went over well with the white majority. He nevertheless successfully walked a political tightrope, and escaped with our vote, without spending any political capital. Obama stuck with a very generalized stump speech and made no specific promises and still received more than 96 percent of our vote.
Here is where why I think Steele’s presence provides the greatest utility. As I reassessed his selection, I have concluded that having him on the other side of the political aisle can prove to be “golden” in the end. Steele will provide for President Obama the cover and accountability that he needs in our community. It will assure that blacks across America will get something substantive from President Obama’s administration.
Let’s face facts: the black president we elected is insulated from legitimate criticism that could surface among black people. Can you imagine the wrath that pundits and activists like Tavis Smiley, Michael E. Dyson, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton would receive if they render constructive criticism of Obama. They would be lynched by their own people and crucified in the arena of public opinion.
The GOP shrewdly calculated the immense value in having a black face representing their party and leading the charge and criticism of this very popular black president. They were very astute in assuming that a black man leading their party would be granted more latitude by the public in criticizing a black, than a white counterpart. The Republicans know the potential detriment of fanning that flame, and how quickly it could turn into racial politics and backfire on them. A black face for them is strategic and safe. There seems to be an unwritten rule in politics, that a black man can say certain things about another black that whites are not at liberty to say.
That being said, it indirectly helps the African-Americans across the country to maximize our spoils and deliverables from this historic presidency.
Since our community wasn’t sophisticated enough to support Obama, while at the same time making demands from his administration, in the end Steele, in a dubious way, may provide us with a great community service.
Never forget, Obama did not win the majority of the white vote, but he received monolithic black support, which in the end made the difference. Steele knowing that, will try to court the African-American vote, by telling blacks that Obama ‘s presidency has not brought much dividends to your community. Certainly Obama’s advisors will see this coming and it should ultimately force them to consider some facets of the African- American agenda. Also for the first time we will have two parties fighting for our vote. No longer can the Democrats take us for granted, nor can the Republicans write us off. Thumbs up for Mr Steele, you will help us maximize Obama’s presidency, and move beyond just celebrating one black family in the White House and one black cabinet post. It is certainly a great victory, but not merely enough when our own dreams are being shattered abruptly.