RNC Meeting: Steele Comes to Honolulu with Proof of Principle

Washington insiders were all aflutter in the second week of January over the possibility that another small group of RNC delegates may advance a motion of censure against Steele for writing and publishing his book, Right Now: A 12-Step Program for Defeating the Obama Agenda. They claim the book was produced behind the backs of the RNC, although a quick glance at the book’s cover shows that Sean Hannity, Bill Bennett, Mark Levin, Newt Gingrich, and the conservative-oriented Regnery publishing house knew all about it. To the dismay of liberal media everywhere, it appears that this issue will not even come up in the closed RNC sessions.

In Honolulu Tuesday, Steele did not directly mention the kerfuffle. He seemed to refer indirectly to these reports when he told the summit, “It’s time for all the petty bickering to stop.” But what is the underlying issue?

Steele’s book argues that Republicans cannot continue to win elections based on intense mobilization of base GOP voters. Republicans need to direct their message and resources towards winning elections in traditionally Democratic areas. This is why the New Jersey and Massachusetts victories are of such importance.

While warning against calls for “ideological purity,” Steele argues:

Don’t believe the pundits’ common refrain that the Republican Party has moved too far to the right. In reality, the problem is that we’ve been moving to the left. Here’s why we’ve fallen out of touch with typical Americans: we’ve acquiesced to big government, big spending, and increased federal control that diminishes the authority of families and the rights of individuals. On entitlements, education, health care, immigration -- even occasionally on free speech, free association, and free markets -- we have compromised, caved, and collapsed.

Without using the words, Steele describes the Gramscian assault on Tocquevillian America and its effect on the GOP:

It’s understandable how we got here: check the newspapers, the TV, and the internet. The last decade has seen a withering and unyielding assault on all things conservative -- a fire hose blast of invective, name calling, and abuse from every angle. It has been exhausting to be a conservative!

But the fact that the fight is hard does not excuse us from combat.

In the forward to Steele’s book, Newt Gingrich writes, “‘Don’t tell me it can’t be done’ is the perfect battle cry for Republicans.”

In 2008, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, former CEO of the Hudson Institute, won 20% of the black vote -- four times McCain’s percentage -- and beat Obama’s vote totals in Indiana college towns. He did it not by changing his conservatism but by “making the ask.” Applying that kind of effort in non-traditional demographics is the key to Steele’s strategy.

Working to seek voters among a 90% Democrat community may seem an exercise in Republican futility, but in a democracy, it is an inherently unstable arrangement for 90% of any electorate to consistently vote one way. Black voters tip the balance in favor of Democrats in Missouri, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, and Maryland. Republicans need only gain 20-30% of the black vote to dramatically shift the balance of power in some or all of these states. Counterintuitively and in spite of race hustlers’ best efforts, the election of Obama makes it more possible to win support for conservative ideas among black voters because it is more difficult to argue that African-Americans cannot fully take part in the American dream when a black person has been elected president.

We may be witnessing the end of a chapter of American political history which began with the 1968 Nixon campaign and the falsely maligned “southern strategy” -- which drew southern whites away from their previous role as enforcers of the color bar. In place of this demographically dwindling base, Steele is forging a conservatism which directs its appeal to a broader audience than the one inherited four decades ago from the civil-rights-induced collapse of Democrats’ segregationist political machines throughout the south and in northern cities.

Considering the enormity of this shift, it is a wonder that there is so little sniping going on.