A ‘Used Up’ Michael Steele to seek second term as GOP leader

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(NNPA)—Although the Republican Party appears to have gotten as much use as they wanted out of Michael Steele, the embattled chairman of the Republican National Committee told supporters Monday night he will seek re-election next month.

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“Yes, I have stumbled along the way, but have always accounted to you for such shortcomings,” he told the 168-member committee in an e-mail sent after a telephone conference call with them. “No excuses. No lies, No hidden agenda. “Going forward, I ask for your support and your vote for a second term.”

Going forward, Steele will face an uphill battle. At least a few prominent Republicans, including former RNC chairwoman Ann Wagner, has announced they are running for Steele’s position. Many have complained about lavish spending and slumping donations during Steele’s tenure. Some urged donors not to give to the party for races in November and instead donate to alternative organizations such as the Republican Governors Association. And, many donors did just that.

Whenever I think about Steele, the lyrics of Bill Withers’ “Use Me” come to mind:

“My friends feel it’s their appointed duty

They keep trying to tell me all you want to do is use me

But my answer yeah to all that use me stuff

Is I wanna spread the news that if it feels this good getting used

Oh you keep on using me until you use me up”

Michael Steele has willingly allowed himself to be used by the GOP. And, now that they have no more use for him, they plan to discard him like a used tissue. Still, he is under the illusion that he can be re-elected.

Steele has never been a popular figure as chairman, winning on the sixth round of balloting. And, the only reason he won then was so that the GOP could use a Black man to counter the nation’s first Black president. It was a role Steele relished.

He said at the time, “Having a Black president of the United States and a Black leader of the opposition is a wonderful testament to our country.”

Even though the GOP made impressive gains in the last election, most Republicans think they were successful in spite of Michael Steele, not because of him.

Over the past two years, Steele may have set a record for gaffes.

Last year, he said: “In the history of mankind and womankind, government—federal, state or local—has never created one job. It’s destroyed a lot of them.”

According to the U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Statistics, of the 153.7 million people in the civilian labor force, approximately 22.5 million held government jobs as of January 2009.

Steele can’t even get it right when trying to woo Black voters.

When he was asked last year about Republican efforts to reach diverse populations, Steele told a group of bloggers, “My plan is to say, ‘Y’all come’ because of lot of you are already here.” When someone in the audience yelled, “I’ll bring the collard greens,” Steele added, “I got the fried chicken and potato salad.”

Many African-Americans saw nothing funny in Steele’s comment.

In his eagerness to attack Obama, Steele said last summer that the Afghan war was a “war of Obama’s choosing.” Evidently everyone except Michael Steele knows that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were initiated by George W. Bush in retaliation for the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon.

Though quick to attack President Obama—even when the facts proved him wrong—Steele was even quicker to defend ridiculous statements by conservatives and genuflect for Rush Limbaugh.

Playing to the ridiculous views of birthers who contend that President Obama was not born in the United States, Steele defended an assertion by former House Speaker and potential Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich that Obama may hold a “Kenyan, anti-colonial view.”

On his short-lived CNN program, comedian D.L. Hughley called Rush Limbaugh the “de facto leader of the Republican Party.” Steele strongly disagreed, saying: “I’m the de facto leader of the Republican Party.”

Steele dismissed Limbaugh as an incendiary entertainer. But after Limbaugh lashed out at Steele on his radio program, Steele backed off, saying “Maybe I was a little bit inarticulate.” He added, “What I was trying to say was a lot of people…want to make Rush the scapegoat, the bogeyman, and he’s not.”

Ironically, the Republican Party has grown more conservative during Steele’s tenure. That had more to do with a Tea Party movement that challenged both moderate and conservative Republican incumbents than a leadership failure on Steele’s part.

Meanwhile, Black voters were not eating from Steele’s political menu. In fact, the share of Blacks voting Republican in congressional races decreased from 11 percent in 2006, the previous off year election, to 9 percent in November.

Michael Steele could not offer enough chicken and potato salad to change that outcome. And nor is the likely outcome of next month’s balloting likely to favor Steele.

(George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator and media coach. He can be reached through his Web site, http://www.georgecurry.com You can also follow him at http://www.twitter.com/currygeorge.)

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