Dr. Marc Lamont Hill: Michael Steele and the GOP

by Dr. Marc Lamont Hill

Columbia University

Over the past week, the political world has been tuned into a highly 
unusual soap opera involving Republican Committee Chair Michael Steele  and conservative radio jock Rush Limbaugh. After Limbaugh was publicly  lambasted for stating that he wanted President Obama’s agenda to fail,  Democratic leaders wisely used the moment as an opportunity to anoint  the polarizing pundit as the de facto leader of the GOP. Steele, the  actual leader of the party, dismissed Limbaugh as a mere “entertainer”  whose show trades in “ugly” and “incendiary” remarks. Limbaugh soon  fired back, telling Steele to do his job and to stop acting like a  “talking head media star.”

Of course, partisan infighting is not uncommon in politics –though 
such public spats are typically the property of the Democrats.  The 
difference, however, has been the party’s response. Instead of 
rallying around its newly appointed leader Steele, GOP honchos have 
either taken the side of Rush Limbaugh or remained conspicuously 
silent. Even Steele himself caved into Limbaugh, apologizing for his 
remarks and removing any lingering doubt about who the real don is.
By allowing Michael Steele to be publicly undressed by a party 
extremist, Republicans have tacitly confirmed what many of us already  knew: they haven’t changed one bit. Despite their post-November promises to rise above bitter partisanship, the GOP decided to cosign  Limbaugh’s antipatriotic machinations. Instead of living up to their  promise to broaden their message and appeal, Republicans have instead opted to defer to the steward of its most vile, ignorant, and bigoted  constituency. Most disturbingly, they have legitimized their antidemocratic enterprise by hiring a black man,  but giving him no more political muscle than the queen of England.

To be clear, I am not trying to diss Michael Steele, who I know 
personally and like a great deal despite our political differences. My 
concern is that the seductive aroma of power and prestige have 
diverted his attention from the harsh realities of his circumstance. 
Like many prominent African Americans, Steele has climbed the heights  of white society under the false premise that he is being judged purely on merit rather than color. This couldn’t be further from the  truth. While the Republican party is willing to use Steele’s black  face to celebrate its ostensible progress, it is equally committed to  reducing him to nothing more than a paper champion. Hopefully, Brother  Steele will stop drinking the Kool-Aid long enough to recognize this  and come back home.

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