How long can Michael Steele survive his own ineptness?
Steele finds himself in an ideological vise—between the moderate Eisenhower Republicans of yesteryear and the Palin wing of true believers—because no one, including Steele, can pinpoint where he stands on the big issues.
Which is the tragicomic result of the fundamental flaw of black Republicanism: an ideology that is based primarily on not being something else—specifically, not a black Democrat—was probably doomed to fail.
Until President Barack Obama came along, black Republicans' nearly exclusive and almost plausible raison d'être was presenting themselves as the starched and pressed, mainstream (read: grievance free) alternative to Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.
But once Obama came along—part professor, part pilgrim, part activist—with a family-oriented, striving, African-American upper middle class pedigree, black Republicans, short on ideological credibility and lacking contemporary policy prescriptions, have been left like the ShamWow guy, hawking their conservative bona fides to anyone who'll listen.
The irony is that Steele seems to understand the problem. In what has to go down as one of the most unguarded interviews of all time, he told GQ's Lisa DePaulo that, "having an absolute holier-than-thou attitude about something that's important to a particular community doesn't engender confidence in your leadership to that community." Amen.
But Steele goes on to reveal his own player-hater streak by dissing both the president and the idea of bipartisanship, effectively calling Obama a token and parroting the campaign charge that "This country still doesn't know who this man is."
For what it's worth, in the GQ interview Steele correctly nails Obama on one point—white tie only goes with tails, not a tuxedo jacket. (Desirée Rogers, take note.) And if, by chance, Steele's professed admiration for one-time haberdasher Harry Truman betrays a secret desire to be a style consultant to the stars, or if all of his interviews are mere ploys designed toward parlaying a stint as GOP chair into a prime-time gig on Fox News, then maybe Steele is a bit more clever than he looks. For better or worse, the cat is entertaining. But in terms of party politics he is, as they say, up against a hard break.
And I believe I speak for all of us when I say: "Fifteen is my limit on schnitzengrüben..."
David Swerdlick is a regular contributor to The Root.