03/02/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Progressives Should Take a Moment to Appreciate the Steele Nomination

Michael Steele, an African-American, will be the new head of the Republican National Committee. I'm a liberal Democrat who doesn't agree with Mr. Steele on much of anything but I still find myself hoping that other progressives will take a moment to appreciate his nomination.

I know all the arguments against Mr. Steele's ideas. I agree with them. And it's easy to write this off as a cynical 'me too!' moment on the part of the losing party.

It's not that I can't believe it. I've seen enough dirty tricks from Republicans in the past couple of decades that my imagination is just as vivid as the next person's.

So I can believe that this is just a cynical, meaningless move that doesn't make a damn bit of difference.

But I won't believe it.

To buy into that theory is to drink from the same poison well that Rush Limbaugh sups from. Limbaugh believes in his heart what many dark-hearted Republicans also feel; that Barack Obama's nomination was a ploy. They see the Obama nomination as a gimmick - a race based tactic that allowed an unqualified candidate with wacky ideas to rise to become the leader of the free world.

They see President Obama's victory as a confirmation of their worst view of Americans; a bunch of suckers who fall for the most obvious con game in the world -- vote for the black guy and everything will be fine. That's how Barack the Magic Negro fits neatly into their world view.

I think this view of Obama is wrong; not just wrong factually but also wrong in a deep, sick, and sad way. It misses the fundamental reality that something is different in America because we elected Barack Obama. It ignores the real, profound and meaningful change that the 2008 election meant.

Barack Obama himself understands this on a deep level. Here are his words from his "A More Perfect Union" speech:

The profound mistake of Reverend Wright's sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It's that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country - a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old -- is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know -- what we have seen - is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope - the audacity to hope - for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

We may disagree with Mr. Steele's ideas and ideals. We may disagree with the Republican Party deeply and we may scorn it's ugliness...even it's recent ugliness. But as Americans and progressives we should not make the mistake of speaking as if no progress had been made.

Future generations will see the truth about Barack Obama's election. And they will see the nomination of a black man to head of the Republican Party as part of that change, as well. They will see these two events - one a major political event and one a probably minor political footnote - as two living examples of how America in 2009 started to be led out from the gloomy past and into the light.

Today - for your own sake, brothers and sisters - I hope you can see that, too.