Speaking Truth to Power – IS THE GOP’S BLACK CHAIRMAN: “OFF DA HOOK” by William Reed Columnist


IS THE GOP’S BLACK CHAIRMAN: “OFF DA HOOK”

Embattled Republican National Committee (RNC) head Michael Steele “should resign his chairmanship “says a Black RNC committee member.

In a fit of determination to counter Barack Obama last January, Republican Party members elected Michael Steele the brand-changer that would remake the party’s image, but it’s turned out that Steele may not be the guy.  “He’s become clownish,” says North Carolina’s national committeewoman Dr. Ada Fisher.  One of three Black members of the Republican National Committee, Fisher says Steele is “eroding confidence in the GOP” and “should be encouraged to step aside”.  In the Black elephant-on-Black elephant slug fest; Fisher’s call comes amid growing frustration in the GOP that Steele’s gaffes are hurting the party.

Fisher backed South Carolina GOP Chairman Katon Dawson for the RNC’s chairmanship.  It’s unclear how much trouble Steele may be in with the RNC base; and Fisher’s call for his ousting is dismissed by the Republican mainstream. But many Black Republicans feel Steele doesn’t represent Blacks.  Dr. Fisher says: “I don’t want to hear anymore [sic] language trying to be cool about the bling in the stimulus package or appealing to D.L. Hughley and blacks in a way that isn’t going to win us any votes and makes us appear too many blacks as quite foolish”.  Steele appeared on Hughley’s CNN show and fought back against the assertion that radio host Rush Limbaugh was the “de facto leader” of the Republican Party.  Steele called Limbaugh an entertainer whose program’s content was “incendiary” and “ugly.”  Limbaugh shot back that Steele was not the leader of the party and that many conservatives would “hang up” when Steele’s RNC came calling for contributions.  Fisher calls the Limbaugh-Steele clash a “Republican Horror Show” and says she’s, “never seen such ineptness in our GOP leadership.  “Limbaugh has already promised that ‘His Conservatives’ won’t be giving to the RNC.  If we can’t raise money and continue alienating the few verifiable red states remaining, we are foolish.”

Black Republicans such as political consultant Raynard Jackson have helped highlight Ada M. Fisher.  She is a retired physician from Salisbury, North Carolina.  She challenged Democratic incumbent Mel Watt in the state’s 12th Congressional district in 2004 and 2006.  A lifelong Republican and NAACP member, Fisher epitomizes “Black Republicanism”.  Before she retired with a leg disability, she ran a rural health clinic, a 16-county substance abuse program, served on Rowan-Salisbury’s School Board and the board of trustees of Concord, North Carolina’s historically black Barber-Scotia College.   

Longtime GOP strategists also have angst about Steele.  GOP strategist Ed Rodgers suggests that the freewheeling Steele will survive if he lowers his profile and gets to work organizing and raising money for the party.  Rodgers says Steel “needs to devise a media strategy that’s decidedly less about him and more about the party’s message and goals”.  He says “I’m against us appearing befuddled.  Another GOP campaign consultant, Ed Rollins, said he would advise Steele to steer clear of television.  Rollins says Steele “needs to be outside making speeches and raising money, and building the political organization.”

If Steele can build the party’s treasury back to parity with Democrats, and help Republicans win elections, he’ll be “a success” among the mainstream.  But, building a measurable Black Republican constituency will require Steele moving away from the party’s past exclusionary practices.  Another gaffe Steele made was dismissing “outreach” programs, saying the term is “dead to me”.  In a management move he calls “full integration coalition building,” Steele has taken the Coalitions arm, previously housed in the RNC’s Political Unit and made it a budgeted “stand alone” department.  But budget or not, it’s déjà vu all over again.  Steel named former RNC staffer Angela Sailor to head the unit.  An anathema to Blacks as Director of African-American Affairs for the RNC and Bush/Chaney Victory 2000, Sailor is a part of the past the GOP should shed.  If he seeks to be a success among Blacks, Steele’s priority should be to quietly dismantle Republican practices that diminished the presence of Blacks in the GOP over past years.

(William Reed – www.BlackPressInternational.com)

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