06/01/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

With Steele, the GOP's Make-Believe 'Big Tent' Collapses

I'm willing to bet my life's savings that, back in 2008 when Michael Steele was elected head of the RNC, many people on both sides of the aisle were as incredulous as I in seeing a black man leading this almost entirely white political party. A party that seemingly cares about the struggles and needs of blacks and other minorities about as much as Saddam did Shiites.
At the time, it was painfully clear that Republican officials focused not on Steele's qualifications and overall merit in putting him in charge, but rather their sense of urgency and political expediency in having a black face of the party as they battled fiercely with the Democrats and newly elected Barack Obama. It was, and embarrassingly/shamefully so, their proud "see, we have black folks too!" moment. But they could've put rapper Jay-Z atop the RNC and it still wouldn't have attracted black voters, which was clearly their goal with Steele's dubious appointment.

And now, in the wake of the RNC's new sex club scandal, these rueful conservatives are calling for Steele's head, all too happy to throw him under the bus and effectively reverse a decision that no one truly liked in the first place. I mean, a black man running the RNC?! A party with not one elected black U.S. Congressman or Senator? A party which received just 4% of the black vote in 2008's presidential election? Gosh darnit, what were these crazy whiteys thinking!? What kind of boneheaded 'hopey-changey' thing was that?!

So now the Voyeur club scandal -- where party officials expensed thousands of dollars at this Los Angeles sex and "bondage" emporium -- is conservatives' chance to fire the black dude nobody ever really wanted anyway, and who had a bulls eye on his back from day-one. And this campaign, like the ridiculously disproportionate Tea Party vitriol over health care reform, is no doubt heavily rooted in racism.

Now of course, in their defense, Republicans will say, "How can we be racist in axing Steele if he was black when when we elected him?!" Normally, that would be a fairly plausible argument. But in Steele's case, his appointment was just as racist, for he was handed the reins not because of his overwhelming qualifications, but because of his skin color, which was a cheap, calculated ploy in seeking minority voters. The intended message was clear: "We'll put this unqualified black man in charge of an all-white party and you dumb minority folk will be duped into our make-believe 'big tent' and magically come out Republican." That's not racist, you say?