He’s the new chairman of the Republican National Committee:
WASHINGTON – The Republican Party chose the first black national chairman in its history Friday, just shy of three months after the nation elected a Democrat as the first African-American president. The choice marked no less than “the dawn of a new party,” declared the new GOP chairman, former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele. Republicans chose Steele over four other candidates, including former President George W. Bush’s hand-picked GOP chief, who bowed out declaring, “Obviously the winds of change are blowing.”
Steele takes the helm of a beleaguered Republican Party that is trying to recover after crushing defeats in November’s national elections that gave Democrats control of Congress put Barack Obama in the White House.
GOP delegates erupted in cheers and applause when his victory was announced, but it took six ballots to get there. He’ll serve a two-year term.
Steele, an attorney, is a conservative, but he was considered the most moderate of the five candidates running.
He was also considered an outsider because he’s not a member of the Republican National Committee. But the 168-member RNC clearly signaled it wanted a change after eight years of Bush largely dictating its every move as the party’s standard-bearer.
Democrats will no doubt try to downplay the choice of Steele as nothing more than a lame attempt by Republicans to attract black voters, but the truth is that Steele has been extremely popular with Republicans for some time — long before most people had ever heard of Barack Obama. Steele became the first black official elected to statewide office in Maryland when he won the Lieutenant Governorship in 2002. In 2006, Steele ran unsuccessfully for the seat of retiring Maryland Senator Paul Sarbanes. In the wake of the Republicans’ crushing 2006 Congressional defeat, many party members pushed for Steele to take over the reins of the RNC, but the party chairmanship was given to Kentucky Republican Mike Duncan instead. Steele was also considered to be a potential running mate for John McCain during last year’s Presidential election.
Of course we all know what Democrats think of Steele:
Like all black conservatives, he has been subjected to more than his fair share of name calling, bigotry, and hate mongering. And in an obvious attempt to smear Steele before the 2006 Senate elections, two staffers from the office of Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) used Steele’s Social Security number to fraudulently gain access to his credit records.
Steele’s mission as RNC chairman is to unify the Republican party and restore its sense of identity. Republicans are not interested in using Steele as leverage to peel black voters away from Barack Obama. The deep cultural identity that makes Barack Obama “one of us” within the black community, combined with the traditional unity of the black voting block, means that such an effort would be doomed to failure right from the start. Let’s hope that Michael Steele can get the Republican party back on track and in a position to begin chipping away at the Democrats’ Congressional majority in 2010.