THE BLOG
06/20/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

GOP's Kryptonite Dulls The Man of Steele

More than a few Republicans who believed they were supporting a stroke of genius in standing behind Michael Steele to become chairman of their party are now staving off an actual stroke.

Who could argue with the cold, cunning and calculated political strategy that was the GOP's decision to put an African American face on the party whose most recent convention presented fewer faces of color than a Lion's Club meeting in Boise, Idaho?

What happened to the Big Tent that Republicans once talked about housing a plethora of ideas and opinions and people from sea to shining sea? Perhaps an electoral tsunami ripped it to shreds and consequently, there, too, went the party's hope for one of their own forever residing in the White House.

The stroke that is constricting Republicans' circulation and their inability to connect with voters beyond a shrinking base is in play because their new Man of Steele -- the African American man who pledged to "bring this party to every corner, to every boardroom, to every neighborhood, to every community" -- now is an albatross around the party's already bowed neck.

And therein rests a contradiction and conundrum that has saddled political parties' plans and sandbagged politicians' plans to avoid partisanship on their way to victory: The extent to which race can and will trump political affiliations in a nation that still has trouble with dealing with the polarizing issue head on and on a national scale.

This is not to say that Michael Steele is having problems with his brethren these days exclusively because he's black. Not at all. That's an off-the-wall proposition. Let's get real here, people.

It's just that Steele (who earlier this year said, "We want to convey that the modern-day GOP looks like the conservative party that stands on principles. But we want to apply them to urban-suburban hip-hop settings.") was hoodwinked and bamboozled into believing that the real Republican National Committee decision-makers actually ever intended to give full control of the party's future and budget to a man who ostensibly espouses conservative principles but who mistakenly believes that the party's far right faction really agrees with him that even "one-armed midgets" have a place in his party.

At some point, didn't the camera-friendly, eloquent former lieutenant governor of Maryland remember the lessons to be learned when this party faithful fooled the quixotic conservative-perennial political candidate Alan Keyes into running against Barack Obama for the U.S. Senate seat to represent Illinois?

Steele is a bright man, one who made a national name for himself during his four-year run as second in charge in Maryland. So did he not take home any lessons from that fateful day on August 8, 2004, when Keyes was sacrificed, rather drafted, to challenge the nation's next president?

A means to an end. A commitment to die hard under the guise of fighting for your principles. Blinded and hardened by personal beliefs.

Come up with your own phrase of an explanation, but both Keyes and Steele were played like a violin by GOPers who are searching for ways to remain relevant in voters' eyes without alienating the far right who navigate their ship's rudder.

(And when did Rush Limbaugh become a maritime expert anyway?)

Go back to his January election as chairman of the Republican National Committee, when Steele said he was committed to bringing "this party to every corner, to every boardroom, to every neighborhood, to every community;" when he said his public relations campaign was going to be "off the hook;" and when he said his party was about to undergo an extreme makeover.

Here's just how much Republicans want this man at this point in time to change their makeup and hairstyle: Greater controls over how money will be spent have been foisted on Steele. When the RNC convenes its special session this week, there's a chance they will agree to start calling Democrats the "Democrat Socialist Party," a move Steele disagrees with. And finally, holding a special session in and of itself before the RNC's regular meeting in July is being viewed as a slap at the Man of Steele, who misinterpreted the memo to believe he was actually at the top of the food chain.

Michael Steele refuses to believe that he's an interloper in his own home, and that's too bad for him. Entrenched, fanatical and partisan politics have converged -- on top of any implications of race -- to cut him off at the knees before the 100-yard dash even starts.

However, to quote the great author and humorist Mark Twain, once Steele is politically buried, while I won't attend his figurative funeral, I'll send a nice letter saying I approved of it ... but only because he dug the hole and jumped in.