Tag: Michael Steele


Podcast: Michael Steele, a Republican Chairman Who Understands the Challenge of Reaching Minorities

By Diego Graglia, FI2W web editor

Steele. (Photo: ABC News)

The election of former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele to the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee has been hailed by some as yet another effect of Barack Obama’s ascent to the presidency.

“It took the election of the nation’s first African-American president, one who won landslide margins among blacks, Latinos and Asians, to convince the GOP of its need to expand its appeal beyond its overwhelmingly white base,” Charles Mathesian writes in Politico.

It remains to be seen if Steele’s designation is the first step, or a false start, in GOP efforts to expand its tent to try to include a majority of minorities in the nation. It is clear, at least, that Steele is well aware of his party’s need to reach out to those voters it has left mostly unattended for generations.

Last September, Feet In 2 Worlds executive producer John Rudolph interviewed Steele at the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis, where he was one of the few African Americans to address the GOP delegates. (Still, it was Steele who came up with the convention’s likely most memorable phrase: “Drill, baby, drill.”)

In that interview, Steele acknowledged that the McCain campaign made “no effort” to counterbalance the surge of support for Obama among African Americans and that Republicans had “literally, dropped the ball” when it came to going after the black vote.

You can listen to the whole interview by pressing Play below.


Drill, Baby, Drill: The Backstory

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is getting most of the credit for a new slogan that sums up the Republican position on energy. But the phrase, “drill, baby, drill,” was actually used first by former Maryland Lt. Governor Michael Steele in his speech to the Republican National Convention last Wednesday night. Later that evening Giuliani repeated the phrase in his remarks from the podium, and when Alaska Governor Sarah Palin accepted the GOP vice presidential nomination, convention delegates chanted it during her speech. Since then, “drill, baby, drill,” has taken on a life of its own. Newspaper editorials are using it as shorthand for the McCain/Palin energy platform. Wired.com has announced a “drill, baby, drill” remix contest.

Photo: Fox News

Steele is African American, leaving some to wonder if he reinvented the 60’s black power phrase, “burn, baby, burn,” to advance the GOP argument for a dramatic increase in offshore oil drilling. But Steele told Feet in Two Worlds that wasn’t the case. “No, we weren’t there…(I) was not making that connection,” Steele said. Rather, according to Steele, the slogan, “literally just came to me,” as he was writing his speech. Steele continued, “I think it’s the part of me that really kind of connects to real people – how real people would view this, what’s their expectation.”

A few days ago we blogged about Steele’s comment that the GOP had, “dropped the ball,” when it comes to reaching out to African American voters. We thought you would be interested in hearing all of his remarks, so here they are:

Listen to Michael Steele interviewed by Feet in Two Worlds’ John Rudolph.


The GOP and African Americans: "We Dropped The Ball," Says a Leading Black Republican

In his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, Senator John McCain promised that if he’s elected, “we’re going to reach out our hand to any willing patriot, make this government start working for you again, and get this country back on the road to prosperity and peace.” During the fall campaign the outreach may not be quite as sweeping, especially when it comes to African-American voters. In an interview with Feet in Two Worlds, Michael Steele, the Chairman of GOPAC and one of the few African Americans to address the GOP convention, said as far as he knows “there is no effort” by the McCain campaign to counterbalance the surge of support for Barack Obama in the black community.

“The reality of it is, you take ten African Americans, nine and a half of them are going to vote for Barack,” said Steele, the former Lt. Governor of Maryland. “That still doesn’t mean you don’t compete for the vote. You still lay out the cause for looking at John McCain. Because as John McCain himself has said, before the NAACP and the Urban League, ‘When I’m your president you will have a seat at my table.’ Not even Barack is saying that.”

GOPAC is a political action committee created in 1979 whose purpose, according to a statement by Steele on the GOPAC web site, is, “recruiting, training, and equipping candidates across the country to establish and maintain a Republican majority.”

According to Steele, when it comes to cultivating African-American voters and candidates, the Republican Party has, “literally dropped the ball.”

“We need to pick it up and move forward with it,” he said.

Yesterday, The Washington Post reported there were just 36 black delegates among the 2,380 at the Republican convention, the lowest number in at least four decades.

Steele’s assessment comes in an election year when black voters, energized by Obama’s candidacy, have already demonstrated their clout at the polls. Heavy turnout by black voters in the South Carolina Democratic primary gave Obama the edge he needed to beat Hillary Clinton and John Edwards.

In July, Mike Baker of the Associated Press wrote, “If Barack Obama’s historic campaign to become the first black president boosts black turnout as drastically as he predicts, he could crack decades of Republican dominance across the South.” Obama has pledged to increase black voter participation by 30 percent this year. If that happens, Baker cites four states that could shift from red to blue in the November election. They include Florida, the mother of all battleground states, Virginia (another important battleground state), Arkansas and Louisiana. In addition, Baker reports that the Obama campaign is focusing on boosting African American voter turnout in six other states -North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Mississippi.

Michael Steele maintains that the McCain Campaign is pursuing a “fifty-state strategy” to elect their candidate. But with no pages in the playbook specifically aimed at African-American voters, Republicans may discover they have ceded a critical group of voters to the Democrats in a what many believe will be a very tight election.