By now, we've gotten wind of quite a few denouncements of Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele from establishment leaders within his own party. Steele, apparently a victim of YouTube politics and his own example of the dreaded "gaffe," doesn't seem to help his situation any with the slippage in fundraising numbers compounded by nonstop controversy. A now endless succession of prominent Grand Old Party partisans are knocking the door for Steele's not-so-graceful exit, increasing chances for resignation in the somewhat immediate future.
Raising the prospect of Mississippi Governor and former RNC Chair legend Haley Barbour is by design. Barbour's loss of weight, at-the-scene command of Mississippi Gulf coast response and attraction as a 2012 presidential candidate may be the "Haley" (as he is fondly known) machine building the case for re-installment as RNC Chair. This makes a Steele resignation much more likely as red-blooded conservatives hunger for a GOP takeover in November similar to 1994 -- over which Barbour presided. That answers questions about whether the GOP really wants to endure the distraction of a mid-summer RNC regime change right before a major election. Republicans, by nature, are a nostalgic bunch. If anyone can do it, Haley can...
But -- what will Michael Steele do? The novelty of his tokenism is, for the most part, played out. The shine of that moment has worn off, much like the droopy poll numbers of President Obama. He's like Tiger Woods: his usefulness is over. What Woods is going through is somewhat of an interesting and appropriate metaphor for Steele. Even after Tiger makes the golf world billions in revenue through singlehandedly positioning it as one of the most popular sports in the world (out of the obscurity of an exclusive country club fad), his personal foibles are used as a way for many resentful whites to push him out. Even after he resurrects the golfing careers of many, there were spiteful folks in the golfing world who couldn't wait for Tiger to slip up.
Like Tiger, Steele was being used. Now, like Tiger, Steele's token brand isn't of use anymore, despite major blue-to-red state wins and offering the GOP a chance at a some relevancy in the aftermath of that electoral atomic bomb in 2008. Even though the GOP witnessed major gains in New Jersey, Virginia and Massachusetts under Steele while milking his rather odd, black celebrity status (for lack of a better description), they figure having Tea Party faithful and a bad economy will keep them in play through November.
Thus, a Steele resignation looks somewhat plausible, with establishment Republicans like Graham and McCain diplomatic only because they are sensitive to the usual accusations of right-wing racism as a driving force. Race was the original reason Steele was picked: an energetic, somewhat fresh, rising star counterweight to the first black President. Hence, pick the first black RNC Chair. Someone as down and as close to the mold of "polished black guy" as Obama, who was -- if for a moment -- political king in a state where more than a quarter of the electorate is African-American. For a party that prides itself as the anti-quota, this was certainly one of those ridiculously quota-driven moments of desperate political affirmative action. And Steele, not stupid, rode it for all that it was worth.
Party politics aside, there is immense opportunity for the embattled RNC Chair should he decide to resign. At the moment, his signature bald head is a bit hard, and he may not see the benefit in this. But, perhaps, it's time to not only resign, but choose a much more independent path. It all depends on his capacity to cut ties with the GOP establishment and whether he has the stomach to go it alone. His political career has exhibited an almost exclusive dependence on the Republican Party, from the impossibility of a stint as Prince George's County, Maryland Republican Committee Chair to riding the tide of cautious GOP optimism as Lt. Gov. then waging an unsuccessful bid for Senate in a state where Black folks left him bitter. Steele: the classic Black Republican tale -- lambasting the African-American electorate for "misguided" allegiance to the Democratic Party on one hand, yet unable to wean from their addiction to white Republican financial support on the other.
For Steele, resignation could lead to both redemption and redefinition. It's not like he was completely wrong about what fired General Stanley McChrystal called the "bleeding ulcer" in Afghanistan -- he could've left out the part about it being "Obama's War." But, on hundred, Steele more than likely feels as though Afghanistan is wasted time, money and lives -- but, can he say that as the Chair of a pro-defense-at-all-cost political party? Of course not, so slip in some blame on the current president. Still, he offers the GOP a nugget of political opportunity: since voters are paying attention at the moment, why not be the anti-war party? Not like he wasn't on point about the history of failed invasions over the past thousand years.
So, while under siege, why not resign and simply break from convention, find justice as the famous black Republican who triggers an anti-war movement? Or, why not spark a new, independent movement of black political thought and action?
But, that's not Steele. For him, greatness is only a book tour and a FOX cable contract away.
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