But the most likely reason for Steele’s continued dominion over the GOP remains its hangover about race. Stretching back to the RNC election in 2009–just days after Barack Obama’s inauguration–the Republican Party’s leadership seems to be in constant cringe mode when it comes to its public image on racial issues. Within a political coalition that this week referred to Obama as “that black one.” and astride a grassroots Tea Party movement accused of spitting on black elected officials, it’s understandable. Of the 247 members of the congressional Republican caucus, none are African-American and just five are Hispanic. At the 2008 Republican convention, just 2 percent of the delegates were black.
Of course, Steele’s career has not flown above the race-baiting that has for decades prevailed in Republican political circles. His “hip-hop” efforts to attract minority demographics with “fried chicken and potato salad” were poorly received. During his failed 2006 bid for the Senate in Maryland, his team famously bused in poor blacks from Philadelphia to campaign for him–as a Democrat. Still, accusing Steele of being overly “bling bling” is a tricky criticism given the racial politics of the moment. And Steele has no problem talking greasy to his own party: “Shut up or fire me,” he has jeered.
No, Republicans are stuck to Steele like a sex slave to a dominatrix. Whether voters reward Democrats or punish Republicans for his behavior, says DCCC spokesman Rudominer, “Michael Steele is the gift that keeps on giving.”
Dayo Olopade is Washington reporter for The Root. Follow her on Twitter.