Here are some details:
Obama's use of race was far more complex than the article acknowledges. Obama emphasized his racial backgrounds for political gain and deemphasized them for the same reason. Clearly, Steele serves a "diversity" purpose as well. But I really do not see how that differs from Obama's role in the Democratic Party. To many people, "change" symbolizes "racial progress," and Obama's numerous references to Lincoln certainly exploit this notion. Also, Democrats frequently boast about their ("our") diversity. That too is an explicit appeal to race. Republicans are merely trying to compete.
Evil twin, nemesis, archenemy—whatever the term, every great protagonist has one. Superman had Bizarro, his alternate-universe self. Spock from Star Trek had the shady, goateed "mirror" Spock. Super Mario has the cackling Wario. And Barack Obama has Michael Steele. . . .
And as the term would suggest, evil twins look similar but usually have distinctive physical differences—an eye patch, say, or a scar. Michael Steele, like Barack Obama, is African-American. But unlike Obama, he is bald and sports a mustache—a classic nemesis signifier, although a goatee would be ideal. . . .
The twin-ness even carries over to the way the two men view their race. During his campaign, with the notable exception of his "race speech" in Philadelphia, Obama made a concerted effort not to make his race an issue. He made the historic nature of his candidacy implicit. Steele has a trickier job. One of the reasons he was elected party chairman is his ability to reach out to minorities. So in a way his job is to emphasize his background. But sometimes it comes off weirdly. After Steele called Obama's stimulus package "a wish list from a lot of people who have been on the sidelines for years, to get a little bling, bling," Gawker declared: "The Republicans have finally found their voice: it's the voice of a 50-year-old using hiphop slang from the end of the '90s." Obama's hip-hop references are from at least 2003.
But on the point of Beam's use of race -- is anyone else slightly annoyed by the implied "good black"/"bad black" analysis? And aside from being black men -- have I missed recognizing that Obama and Steele actually "look similar"?
Related Reading on Dissenting Justice:
A Black Progressive Law Professor Responds to News That Michael Steele Will Lead the GOP