Thursday, February 19, 2009

Man of Steele: RNC Chair Serves Major "Swagger" During Recent Interview

It's hard not to notice RNC Chair Michael Steele's recent interview with The Washington Times. Steele makes some very heavy promises about his plans to revitalize the Republican Party, which several commentators have dismissed as irrelevant. Some of Steele's ideas seem highly ambitious if not utterly impossible (e.g., luring black voters during the Obama era), but he earns points for his surprising "swagger" and for setting an "off the hook" (his words, not mine) agenda.

Here are some interesting clips from The Washington Times interview with Michael Steele:
Newly elected Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele plans an “off the hook” public relations offensive to attract younger voters, especially blacks and Hispanics. . . .

The RNC's first black chairman [says that he] will “surprise everyone” when updating the party's image using the Internet and advertisements on radio, on television and in print. . . .

"There was underlying concerns we had become too regionalized and the party needed to reach beyond our comfort" zones. . . ."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-surburban hip-hop settings.” [Editor's Note: Steele, please let me know how that plan goes!]

"Dissed" by Karl Rove?
At the end of 2006. . .[Karl] Rove nixed a growing movement among RNC members . . . to elect Mr. Steele as their next chairman.

Mr. Rove subsequently left the White House. . .and with President Bush on his way out of the Oval Office, the RNC was free to choose its own chairman instead of rubber-stamping the choice of a Republican White House. [Editor's Note: Is the author a little upset with Rove's prior decision?]

While other former top Bush White House and campaign officials sent congratulations on his election . . . Mr. Rove neither phoned nor wrote his congratulations, Mr. Steele told The Times.

Steele tells detractors to "stuff it."
Top party officials and officeholders have suggested that Mr. Steele name as deputy chairman someone who can run the national committee's vast operations in fundraising, communications, candidate recruitment and training, and voter identification and targeting. [Editor's Note: Overseer? Spy?]

“I can run this organization just fine,” Mr. Steele told The Times. “There will be no deputy chairman, period.”

Still, the talk among some prominent senior Republicans was that Mr. Steele would need someone with “more experience” to provide guidance and organization. . . . . “People who said I can't make the trains run on time never gave a reason. I say to them, 'Stuff it.'"

“The idea I am somehow going to handicap myself before I begin is nuts. I am not going to buy into this mind-set among a few people who probably have never run anything but their mouths.” [Editor's Note: LOL]

My Non-Republican Take: The Dissenting Justice likes "from the hip" commentary (I even liked Howard Dean), so Steele earns big points for this interview. But be careful, Mr. Steele. People do not like losing power or being told to "stuff it." You do not have the same freedom as some loudmouth cantankerous blogger. Finally, the "change" theme is apparently everywhere!

23 comments:

Page W.H. Brousseau IV said...

As a Republican who has spent the better part of the past 10 years trying to expand our message into the City of Flint, I cannot be more happy with Mr. Steele as RNC.

It's not window dressing as some have said but a change in attitude, which Mr. Steele certainly has.

Infidel753 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-surburban hip-hop settings.”

What will that mean in practice -- setting "God hates fags" to rap music? Of course lots of rappers have already done that.

Finding new ways of getting one's message out is a good idea, but they need to realize the problems with the message itself. "Republican" today means gay-bashing, creationism, and primitive religious fundamentalism. That's not because of Democratic propaganda, it's because people are capable of seeing what is actually going on around them. A Republican-dominated Congress and a Republican President were quite happy to inflict the largest explosion of government spending and debt in US history, so long as everyone genuflected toward the higher goal of someday allowing reactionary state governments to force women to carry unwanted pregnancies to term. It's that, not their style of communication, that shows us what their priorities are.

Reforming the party's substance, as opposed to just its image, probably goes beyond what Steele or any party chairman would be allowed to get away with. He might have better luck if successive defeats convinced the party as a whole of the need for fundamental change, but they do not seem to have reached that point yet.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

What would life be on here without you, Infidel??? You said (causing a mild seizure):

What will that mean in practice -- setting "God hates fags" to rap music? Of course lots of rappers have already done that.

I think we agree -- they must make peacce on some of the most divisive of social issues. I think that means embracing libertarian principles on social issues -- it's another form of "deregulation."

If THE PEOPLE can spend their money better than the government, then they can certainly pick the gender of intimate sexual partners and spouses and determine the best time to add a kid the household better than the government as well.

I suspect Steele wants to do make the party more moderate, but he will have a struggle. His talk about making the GOP less regional sounds like a decision to make it like it was prior to the Southern abandonment of the Democrats (after 1964).

QUESTION: Don't you think we -- meaning liberals or nonconservatives (not sure how you define yourself) -- have an interest in a Republican Party that looks more like it did before it was defined by deep social conservatism? I'm speaking of the Rockefeller Republicans. And ones like Dwight Eisenhower -- who sent in the national guard to protect black kids from a lynch mob as they tried to go to school on an equal basis. Chutzpah.

Having viable options is a good thing. Right now, liberals only have the Democratic Party or Nader. That doesn't strike me as attractive. People of all ideological stripes are better served when they can wield power; that's difficult to do when you only have one option. Make them compete for our votes. No more coronations....

Jason Papanikolas said...

As a conservative (who may or may not be a Republican, depending on the issue and the day), I am elated at Steele's selection as RNC chairman. Of course, I might be biased. I do live in Maryland after all.

Steele is labeled as a moderate for many of his stances on the divisive social issues of our day. If that is the operative definition we're using, then I'm probably a moderate myself (instead of the conservative that I really am).

Conservatism is (to my mind) all about limiting the intrusion of government into your life. As such, hate speech laws are as offensive to me as anti-gay marriage initiatives. Conservatives should be advocating greater federalism (i.e. more state "experimentation"), not less as they did during the Bush years. Finally, conservatism is pragmatic. (Hello! Rename civil marriage as civil union and apply it to everyone, gay or straight. Leave marriage as the religious sacrament that is and safely in the perview of religion.)

I see many of these same beliefs in Steele and hope that he can change the Party for the better. But, ultimately, it's not up to you Prof. Hutchinson or (probably) Infidel. Change will have to come from within, from people like me supporting Republican leaders like Mr. Steele.

Infidel753 said...

causing a mild seizure

Hey, just a bit of "from-the-hip commentary". I'm seriously revolted by what the Republican party has become since the fundamentalists took it over.

Don't you think we -- meaning liberals or nonconservatives (not sure how you define yourself) -- have an interest in a Republican Party that looks more like it did before it was defined by deep social conservatism?

Well, in a way, that's what I was arguing. It would be nice to have two parties that a rational person (as I see it) could vote for -- if the Republicans become too much of a fundamentalist fringe party and the Democrats become too dominant, the Democrats will have less reason to be responsive to the public, and that's not good for anybody. (I don't think a third party emerging as a significant force is a realistic possibility for the foreseeable future.) I'm not asking the Republicans of 2010 or 2012 to show the same courage against anti-gay bigots as Eisenhower did against anti-black bigots -- that's too much to hope for -- but it would be nice if they at least stopped being apologists for the bigots.

The country is becoming steadily more secular and diverse. If the Republicans continue to be the party of anti-gay anti-abortion fundamentalism, they will increasingly marginalize themselves. So far, I don't see much evidence that they recognize that. Steele may surprise us, but so far it sounds like they're focusing on finding flashy new bottles for their old and rather rancid wine.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Jason said: "But, ultimately, it's not up to you Prof. Hutchinson or (probably) Infidel. Change will have to come from within, from people like me supporting Republican leaders like Mr. Steele."

Thanks -- I have enough on my plate already!

CONSERVATIVE LIBERTARIANISM V SOCIAL CONSERVATISM
Jason, your post describes (and you seem to embrace) the libertarian side of conservatism -- which happens to look exactly like the libertarian side of liberalism.

After the South flocked to the GOP (following 1964), the Republican Party began to embrace "social conservatism," which is not libertarian. Social conservatives wish to maintain tradition notions of morality, and see no problem at all with using the coercive power of government to enforce these values (e.g., criminalizing gay sex, banning pornography, giving police and law enforcement greater ability to search and seize). This makes social conservatism a very different ideology than the conservative libertarianism.

MARRIAGE IS MORE THAN RELIGION
Also, your comments on marriage do not provide the full picture. Certainly marriage is a "religious" institution -- but it is a governmental institution as well. It's probably best t use language like "civil marriage" (when a state gives people marriage licenses and a bunch of rights and obligations) and "religious marriage" (when a church performs and recognizes a marriage) to make the distinction.

Aethiests can legaly marry (they'd probably go to city hall), but a church can marry lesbian couples r polygamists, but most states would not recognize these unions (none recognize polygamy). The same-sex marriage movement is fighting for "civil marriage," not the right to force any church to recognize same-sex marriages. That's a common distortion - and it's absolutely wrong.

If same-sex marriages are legalized, this would not require churches to perform them against their will. Instead, it would only mean that states would recognize same-sex marriage and would impose the same rights and obligations upon the same-sex couples as they give to all other married individuals.

QUESTION: Doesn't marriage itself (and even civil unions) go against a limited government approach? Why should the state regulate couples by creating a legal institution called marriage and then impose liabilities and distribute benefits to the couples? I can think of reasons for doing this, but this is inconsistent with "deregulation."

Also, creating civil marriage and then picking and choosing who can benefit (heterosexuals - yes, gays - no) strikes me as an even greater "intrusion" by the state. Imagine if a police officer showed up at someone's wedding and interrupted it because the State of _______ [fill in the blank] decided that the couple just wasn't right for each other. It would feel unseemly. Well, that's basically the message states send to all same-sex couples who wish to marry: we just don't like the idea. So, while marriage itself contradicts "limited government," discriminatory marriage does so with greater force.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Infidel - Steele has been in the RNC leadership position for just a few weeks. So, assuming he is a moderate, this would not translate into immediate changes.

Second, what is your basis for "more of the same" in terms of ideology? I have not seen them tested on social issues yet. Most of the discourse has centered around the stimulus package. But I do not even view the stimulus in terms of ideology. Instead, I (cynically) see it as both parties rewarding the more powerful interests among their constituents and doing very little for the very little people among them. The amount of direct spending for "the people" was limited, and Republicans got some tax cuts thrown in there to help people who don't already need it. Between the Dems spending and the Repubs cutting taxes, the stimulus became increasingly more expense. YES -- A TAX CUT IS THE SAME AS AN EXPENDITURE: THEY BOTH COST MONEY. So, the deficit soars, and the thing might not even work. That's not an ideological battle. That's a partisan political battle. I think true liberals would have gone for something like Krugman proposed, while true conservatives would NEVER want to spend more and tax less at the same time (which means Bush wasn't practicing "true" conservatism).

Finally - read this debate on Steele. Steele: A Moderate? I am not trying to argue that he is a moderate or that he can change the GOP. I am just trying to understand where you're coming from (ooooh, a dangling preposition).

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Jason - sorry about the marriage pontificating. I re-read your post, and think we are virtually on the same page! Civil marriage is a state intrusion, you argue, and you would like to just leave marriage to religious institutions. But how are "civil unions" different? Is this a recognition that some type of government "sponsorship" of relations is valuable?

Jason Papanikolas said...

Prof. Hutchinson, you raise some valid points on gay marriage (and, for that matter, my positioning in conservative "movement" as a libertarian).

Let me more fully explain as I have had many discussions on this very topic with my homosexual friends. Marriage is, as the Loving court stated, a fundmental right insofar as it is fundamental to the continuation of the species (i.e. procreation). However, civil marriage, in practice, is actually more of a "priviledged status" granted by the government for purposes of taxation, medical care, and inheritance.

It is that priviledged status that gay marriage proponents seem more keen on acquiring than anything else. Indeed, as one of my gay friends put it, "I don't the government telling me that I'm married. I know that and that's all that matters."

On the other side, most anti-gay marriage proponents seem more motivated by the word marriage rather than the priviledged status aspect of civil marriage. Again, that's just my own personal experience talking.

The pragmatic thing to do, since it would be impossible to do away with the notion of a civil marriage, is to redefine it as a civil union. Thus, while my chuch marriage license is still a marriage license, my state marriage license would become a "certificate of civil union" or some such thing. Such an understanding would properly subordinate "marriage" as a religious sacrament to the secular notion of marriage as a "priviledged" status.

So far as you're question is concerned, I don't think the Loving-articulated right of marriage is violated by the government's defining of the limitations of marriage's priviledged status. I don't agree with the notion of government favoring one groups over another (no matter how justified it may be, i.e. the application of affirmative action). However, my pragmatic side will win out over my ideological side on this issue.

Critical Thinker said...

Hey Professor,

You have some good commenting going on here. If I may rudely interject, it is quite possible to be a Conservative Libertarian. Really what you are describing is a "Classical Liberal" from the school of Adam Smith, David Hume, or John Locke. The greatest variance, with Libertarians, would be their view on social issues. Such as gay marriage, drugs, legalized prostitution, etc.

I think it suffices to say all of the above mentioned authors would have abhorred such practices, since they were deeply religious men. However your point about present day social conservatives using the government to coerce morality is well taken. This falls along the same line as the Far Left's usage of government to eliminate moral codes from governing bodies.

As far as issues which do not break the law, such as gay marriage. Let's apply a little Jefferson, this is an issue which should be left up to a state's constituency. Why should a moral code in California be forced upon people in Montana? Of course, the reverse also applies. There is freedom and there is freedom with responsibility.

Conservatives adopting a wholesale Libertarian approach to social issues would be foolish. Many of their foundations sound excellent on paper. But, when it comes to reality they don't hold up very well. There should be some moral fabric within a political view, these aspects make it human.

Critical Thinker said...

Almost forgot, Steele is one bad mofo. It's about time the GOP got some street cred.

Infidel753 said...

Critical Thinker: However your point about present day social conservatives using the government to coerce morality is well taken. This falls along the same line as the Far Left's usage of government to eliminate moral codes from governing bodies.

I'm a bit confused by the second sentence here. How is eliminating government coercion of "morality" an example of government coercion?

Jason Papanikolas said...

Infidel 753: I'm a bit confused by the second sentence here. How is eliminating government coercion of "morality" an example of government coercion?

So you mean that advocating the amorality of governmental is not taking a position on morality?

The answer to your question, of course, was already provided by Critical Thinker: There should be some moral fabric within a political view, these aspects make it human.

FLRN said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
FLRN said...

Very interesting conversation! I love Infidel's response and will stand by to administer Ativan should the convulsions start. Thank you Critical Thinker for bringing a historical perspective to the table.

Professor while you know I will always lean toward conservatism and smaller government - I have never seen marriage as a federal issue rather this is a state decision making matter so Adam & Steve & even Eve should duke it out and they have 50 opportunities to try. Nor is the right to self-determination something that needs to be decided on Capitol Hill ~~Thank you ever so much for your struggle Mr. Michael Schiavo - I hope to never watch such foolishness as the national view of protestors fighting police lines in the name of the federal government and the GOP to try and bring a glass of water to a woman who has been neurologically UNABLE to swallow for more than a decade!

The federal government should not be about legislating morality (nod to Infidel here) - quite frankly whatever you do with whichever kind of partner you chose (man or beast) should be between you and they and all I ask is that it be consensual. Be yond that - I do not want to see it, hear it or spend my tax dollar to discuss it! This goes for the reproductive rights associated with those decisions as well!

Where Former President Bush derailed was in letting morality of a zealous religious group within the GOP dictate and force national agenda items and then for allowing this same group to create an isolating distraction. You saw this with marriage, Schiavo and stem cell research - here the GOP missed and I did not like where they were coming from (oops another dangling preposition must of had the same English teacher)

I do hope that Mr. Steele offers a more moderate position and an opportunity to limit religious zeal. I will support his efforts to soften the reflection of the party so that those of us who did get pissed off have an opportunity to find a more moderate home within the GOP while we weather the "change" of the next 3 years and 11 months.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

To FLRN and Crit: My position on marriage was that state involvement in relationships was a sign of "big government," and state involvement in a way that picks and chooses appropriate "spouses" is even more dramatic. A solution that neither of you promoted is the abolition of marriage. That would get the state out of intimate partnerships. The "leaving it to the states" argument sounds appealing, but it does not answer the question of state privileging of private intimate relations in the first place.

The conservative move to pass a constitutional amendment banning marriage not only would have precluded state autonomy on the issue, but it would have been a dramatic intrusion in this field for no other reason than politics. At least with the marriage equality movement, the argument for federal involvement is limited simply to equality: so long as the states already create marriage, they must play by an even hand. We already have an equal protection clause - which came out of a war and a constitutional amendment. So, recognizing same-sex marriage merely enforces equality principles that already exist. Amending the constitution to ban same-sex marriage in every state -- which conservatives supported -- is far more invasive.

QUESTION: The state autonomy argument could justify the court butting out of things like affirmative action debates. So long as states feel they need to use it (in colleges and universities, police stations, fire departments, etc), then they could do so. One could argue that federal involvement (at least by the courts) simply enforces equal protection. True - but this is exactly the same argument made in same-sex marriage litigation. How are the two different?

Infidel753 said...

The "leaving it to the states" argument sounds appealing, but it does not answer the question of state privileging of private intimate relations in the first place.

Exactly so. Using government coercion to enforce religious taboos or otherwise violate individual self-determination is equally illegitimate whether done by the federal or state or any other level of government.

We didn't leave it to individual states in 1920 to decide whether women could vote, or (later) to decide whether they could keep their Jim Crow laws if 51% of voters in some states would have chosen to do so. The same with laws against interracial marriage or (since 2003) "sodomy" laws. The use of government coercion to prevent certain consenting adults from marrying certain others, or to force women to carry unwanted pregnancies to term, is similarly just as much a violation of personal freedom regardless of whether it's done by a federal or state legislature.

Overturning such laws on a state-by-state basis may well be a practical strategy in cases where abolishing the coercive intrusion nationwide is not yet a de facto possibility. Some states enfranchised women, removed interracial-marriage laws, etc. before the country as a whole did, and may even have helped the country as a whole move in that direction. That doesn't mean that leaving the discriminatory laws in place in other states permanently would have been acceptable.

Jason Papanikolas said...

Infidel: We didn't leave it to individual states in 1920 to decide whether women could vote, or (later) to decide whether they could keep their Jim Crow laws if 51% of voters in some states would have chosen to do so.

You are conflating two completely different things here. First, the right of women to vote was left to the individual states as part of the amendment process. I should hardly need to quote the Constitution to you, but the Constitution provides four methods for amending it:

1. Proposal by convention of states, ratification by state conventions
2. Proposal by convention of states, ratification by state legislatures
3. Proposal by Congress, ratification by state conventions
4. Proposal by Congress, ratification by state legislatures

At no point can individual states be left out of the process. You are correct that, eventually, a tipping point is reached and the amendment is adopted, irregardless of what the minority of other states believe. So, in a sense, it is true that an individual state cannot opt out, but it would be incorrect to state (as you seem to) that individual states can be excluded from the process.

Jim Crow, OTOH, is a different beast altogether. Jim Crow laws were already in violation of the Constitution. As such, you are correct. A state cannot opt out of the Constitution no matter what the majority of voters in said state wish.

As for the rest of your argument, you may have noted that I agree with you where establishing a special priviledge for any group is involved. Your example of abortion, however, is not well-chosen in my opinion. I suppose that, to an extent, government should not advocate one moral code over another (i.e. sharia law over say Catholic ecclesiastical teaching).

That is not to say that government should be amoral. A lack of a moral code necessarily leads to anarchy. In the case of abortion, the government must carefully weigh two compelling morals: the right to life and the right to choose.

This is not the same thing as privileging heterosexual couples over homosexual ones. To the best of my knowledge, the courts have struck down every sodomy law that has been enacted, on much the same basis as the original Loving decision. You cannot violate the right of free association. That is not the same thing as saying that government has to give official sanction to your free association (i.e. guarantee it the same priviledged status).

This is not an equal protection argument. The government is not saying that you cannot be with whomsoever you choose to be with. The government is merely exercising its right to establish a priviledged group. You and I might think that it's stupid, but that doesn't make it an equal protection violation.

Infidel753 said...

Jason, I was making a more general point than you perhaps realized. If something is a fundamental right, then it is wrong for the government to deny it. My point was that it's immaterial whether it's the state or the federal government. I was talking about morality, not Constitutional law.

I think abortion and the right to marry any consenting adult you choose (regardless of religious taboos inherited from ignorant Bronze-Age nomads) are fundamental rights in that sense, and obviously you don't, but that doesn't affect the point. Think of whether it was right for some states to permit race-based slavery before 1861, when it was clearly considered Constitutional, and maybe you'll see better what I mean.

Government probably does need a moral component, but fortunately the First Amendment prohibits our own government from imposing any of the arbitrary "moral" taboo-systems of the various religions. Real morality has almost nothing to do with religion, but that's too complex of an issue to get into here.

Jason Papanikolas said...

Infidel:

Let me make simplify my argument (or at least the second half). You are rejecting what you call "moral taboo-systems." That's fine, insofar as universal fundamental rights are concerned.

However, where I think that your argument runs into trouble is what those fundamental rights are. That's really what I was arguing.

Marriage is not a fundamental right per se. What is marriage but an association of two people bound together by some sort of mutual agreement? See, for instance, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marriage#History.

Therefore, the real fundamental right is freedom of association. Failure to extend the concept of marriage to homosexual couples cannot be said to be violative of free association, unless the state criminalizes such behavior (as with miscegenation in the South and the modern-day attempts at consensual sodomy laws).

The same goes for abortion. What is the fundmanetal universal right that underlies abortion, but the right to choose? That fundamental right clearly conflicts with the right to life. Again, as we are not considering any of the moral "taboo-systems," we must consider each right in its broadest perspective.

This is why government essentially chooses a moral "taboo-system." Put another way, you could say that the Constitution creates its own secular "taboo-system," by parceling out rights that, in some cases, go far beyond the fundamental universal right (i.e. the right to vote is fundamental to our "taboo-system," but it is not a fundamental universal right.)

FLRN said...

Real morality has almost nothing to do with religion, but that's too complex of an issue to get into here.
Infidel - this is such a true statement! Well said~ strong work. Too bad we can't go there - hmmm Darren????

This may be a bit late at the gate, but Darren please explain your statement "My position on marriage was that state involvement in relationships was a sign of "big government," and state involvement in a way that picks and chooses appropriate "spouses" is even more dramatic."

How does a state, like Florida, weighing in on the issue of gay marriage then "pick" your spouse??? I don't see it that way but would be willing to try - maybe. This seems to be a 'form over function' argument.

While I love mine - if this were indeed the case, than I would hope my next partner selected would be a bit richer and come with a good cough!

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

FLRN - when states (or feds) prohibit people from marrying someone of the same sex, they do more than "weigh in" on the subject; they use the coercive arm of the state to exclude gays and lesbians from lawful marriage. Imagine a PARENT (and I put that in all-caps, because this is how I feel the state is behaving) saying "you can marry anyone except for ______," and that parent actually had the power to permit or deny your marriage. We can call that "picking," coercion, or similar labels. It's just not a passive "idea," however.

As for another hubby -- I'm into finding wealth. But I am not sure what to make of the desire for a "good cough." Perhaps you can elaborate for me and the curious readers?

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

"Good cough" = incurable, terminal illness.

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