Michael Steele deserves so much more credit for his RNC leadership

Michael Steele deserves so much more credit for his RNC leadership
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Political life, at times, can be full of dramatic displays of puffed up nonsense filled with pridefulness, which is so prevalent in our human condition. Some live incessantly in a world where making unabashedly false statements based on opinions over facts is the norm. Despite how easily disproved their conflicting remarks are, purveyors of such calamity do so in the name of telling the truth, or in this case, “having to deliver an unsatisfactory report card” as noted in an opinion piece by Ian Walters, the communications director of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), in his attempt to explain his statement about Michael Steele, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC).

At the 2018 CPAC meeting last week, Walters stated, “We were somewhat lost as a group. We had just elected the first African American president, and that was a big deal. And that was a hill we got over, and it was something were all proud of. And we weren’t sure what to do. And in a little bit of cynicism, what did we do? This is a terrible thing: We elected Michael Steele to be the RNC chair because he’s a black guy, and that was the wrong thing to do.”

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My critique of his words is a criticism of what I view as lack of reason, which led him to make such an illogical statement. Such errors must not go unchallenged, or it risks running afoul of logic itself, which does a disservice to all concerned. It goes without saying that Steele was a particularly felicitous candidate to be chairman of the GOP when he was selected. If race, as noted several times by Walters, was the primary reason for electing Steele, the way in which he was elected would have been much more expedient.

Instead, Steele was not elected on the first ballot, second ballot, third ballot, and so on. He was elected as RNC chairman on  the sixth ballot. If race was the primary reason he was selected, one would think that the party would have selected him overwhelmingly the first time. Unless, of course, Ian is arguing there was a great scheme to elect Steele much later in the process to not have the appearance that he was chosen because of race, which of course is not only dubious, it is absurd.

The Republican Party was seeking new ways for minority engagement, which was absolutely a good thing, but the idea that Steele was selected only because of his race is fallacious. It was his experience as the Republican Party state chairman for Maryland, where he also served as lieutenant governor, and as head of the grassroots organization GOPAC, that uniquely qualified him to be chairman of the national committee. The desire by Walters to relegate Steele’s election as RNC chairman to merely the color of skin is chimerical, or as Immanuel Kant wrote, “not based on empirical or sensuous impressions.”

As RNC chairman, Steele launched the 2010 “Fire Pelosi” bus tour, on which he visited 48 states and more than 100 cities to energize, target and mobilize Republicans. The results were overwhelmingly successful. Under his leadership, the RNC broke fundraising records by raising $198 million and winning 63 House seats, which was the biggest congressional pickup since 1938 and led to Republicans retaking control of the House. The GOP also took back six seats in the Senate, seven governorships, and the greatest share of state legislative seats since 1928, with more than 600 seats flipping Republican. After reviewing the facts, what human faculty would lead one to not consider this as evidence of successful leadership? What analytic assessment would equate the aforementioned to failure? Certainly not any that I know of.

Walters wrote, “We all remember the stories of how he promoted his book instead of promoting the RNC.” That book, “Right Now: A 12-Step Program For Defeating The Obama Agenda,” was, as the Washington Post’s Philip Rucker noted at the time, “a 12-part blueprint that outlines what Steele believes Republicans should do to defeat Democrats. Many of his suggestions are in line with Republican priorities, such as talking about principles of freedom, justice, national security. He writes that Republicans should win on cultural, economic and national security issues, which have long been hallmarks of GOP campaigns.”

Walters wrongly viewed the book as self-promotion, when it was in fact a guide to victory. Many of Steele’s suggestions were in many ways acknowledged just a few years later in the Growth and Opportunity Project, the Republican Party’s self-assessment after it lost the presidential election for a second time to Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaJennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez's engagement win Obama's endorsement Pence lobbies anti-Trump donors to support reelection: report The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump attacks on McCain rattle GOP senators MORE.

Walters also makes the argument that Steele “allowed his staff to expense trips to strip clubs.” That is to say that Steele gave permission to those individuals to expense trips to a strip club. Candor would oblige even the most casual of spectators to admit how objectionable and insufficient such a charge is. Take a moment to think about this. Steele has a history of having a strong and viable faith that is backed by deep moral convictions. Would such a person permit such behavior? No.

The column by Walters isn’t based on a priori of assumptions about Steele’s faults as a leader. Rather, it is an attempt to haphazardly pronounce mere opinion on the reasons he was elected, as well as his record. It is the duty of those who partake in the intellectual exchange of ideas to exhaust themselves in the labor of logical and truthful debate and analysis, particularly in instances in which such moments demand it.

Was Michael Steele a perfect leader? No. But point out one leader before or after his tenure who is, and you won’t find one. This brazen attempt to delegitimize his record or the reason for his election must be refuted. The facts show otherwise.

Shermichael Singleton is a political commentator and a Republican political strategist who has worked on the presidential campaigns of Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyTrump's attacks on McCain exacerbate tensions with Senate GOP Lou Dobbs criticizes Republicans 'undercutting' Trump on 'nasty remarks about John McCain' GOP senator: Trump's criticism of McCain 'deplorable' MORE and Ben CarsonBenjamin (Ben) Solomon CarsonHousing and health care go hand-in-hand Carson's calendar includes trips to Florida on Fridays: report The Hill's Morning Report - 2020 Dems grapple with race, gender and privilege MORE. Follow him on Twitter @Shermichael_.