Michael Steele's recent public apologies to social conservatives suggest that the Republican Party is deeply divided and that Steele is walking a perilous tightrope. Steele's need to apologize for relatively innocuous statements also indicates the Republicans, like Democrats of the past, are willing to cannibalize each other in order to remain utterly powerless.
Steele Was Right: Limbaugh Is Obnoxious (If Not "Incendiary")
Steele first apologized for stating during a CNN interview that he (the RNC Chair), not Rush Limbaugh (an popular radio personality), is the de facto leader of the Republican Party. Steele also accepted the interviewer's statement that Rush engages in "ugly" and "incendiary" rhetoric. Although Steele apologized, both of these statements are fairly accurate.
While chairing the RNC does not necessarily make Steele the party's leader, he has a greater claim to that role than Rush Limbaugh. I suspect that most people would agree that Howard Dean had a good argument that he, not Michael Moore, was the leader of Democratic Party.
And while one can debate whether Limbaugh's stances are "ugly" and "incendiary," it is indisputable that he is an obnoxious radio host. Limbaugh is a proud "shock jock" with a political agenda. People do not flock to Limbaugh expecting to get the warm and careful temperament of Diane Rehm. [Note: Despite the fact that I believe Limbaugh is obnoxious, I still believe that my fellow Democrats' concerted effort to go after him was imprudent.]
Abortion Tap Dance
Steele's latest apology comes after he stated during an interview that abortion is a "choice." A seemingly anxious Steele attempted to dance around the explosive abortion issue. Although he said abortion is a "choice," Steele also reiterated that he is pro-life and that he believes Roe v. Wade was incorrectly decided.
But the word "choice" is a hand grenade to the pro-life community, which is now up in flames over Steele's comments. Not wanting more fire on his heels, Steele has apologized -- sorry, "clarified his words" -- once again. Steele was in a definite box during the interview (trying to sound accommodating and rigid at the same time), but as a neutral observer (as a pro-choice Democrat, I do not care too much about Republican infighting), his words do not strike me as loathsome.
Current GOP = Democrats of the Past
As a result of his efforts to appear accommodating to the rightwing, commentators use words like "embattled" to describe Steele, even though other Republicans are doing the party more harm than good. And breaking news reports suggest that Republicans are planning to hold a "no confidence" vote on Steele -- which would be a political disaster for the GOP. I am not sure whether Steele is actually a moderate or not, but Republicans will continue to lack influence if they cave into the extreme right and become agitated over mere words.
Democrats used to get crazy over issues like these, but recently, they have been uncharacteristically unified. In a strange "Freaky Friday" kind of way, the Democrats and Republicans have switched roles, leaving the latter far more impotent than in recent years.
Related Readings on Dissenting Justice:
More on the Man of Steele: Can the Unexpected Hip-Hopster Bring People of Color to the GOP?
Man of Steele: RNC Chair Serves Major "Swagger" During Recent Interview
From the "Post-Racial" Vault: Slate Magazine Asks Whether Michael Steele Is Barack Obama's "Evil Twin"
A Black Progressive Law Professor Responds to News That Michael Steele Will Lead the GOP