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Michael Steele's Problems with Dr. King Continue

September 22, 2009

Speaking at Philander Smith College in Little Rock Monday, RNC Chairman Michael Steele declared, "Dr. King would be disappointed in the political leadership of this country for failing to address the least of us." But while Steele denied "we're all doing all this blocking" on health care, he also left unmentioned that 58% of Republicans aren't sure if the nation's first African-American president was born in the United States. And as it turns out, this isn't Steele's first unfortunate attempt to appropriate the legacy of Dr. King for his lily-white party.
During his failed 2006 Maryland Senate run, the the National Black Republican Association (NBRA) aired radio ads declaring that Democrats started the Ku Klux Klan and that Martin Luther King Junior was a member of the GOP. While no evidence apparently supports the group's claim that King was a Republican, the Klan's roots in the post-Civil War Democratic south are pretty clear. What is also quite clear, however, is that since the civil rights movement of the mid-1960's, Southern racists have happily found in a new home in the Republican Party.
And as the Washington Post reported that September, Michael Steele initially had no problem with the NBRA's revisionist history:

Steele was asked about the ad yesterday as he walked through a shopping mall in Forestville, greeting clerks and shoppers. He said he would not address the radio spot directly, because he had not heard it.
But, he said, "I think Republicans have allowed Democrats to control the debate on political opportunity for African Americans...It's about time the Republicans speak to their real place in history...and to debunk the myths."

But just 24 hours later, Lt. Governor Steele was quick to reverse course on the ads, which among other things proclaimed, "Democrats want to keep us poor while voting ONLY Democrat" and, "Democrats have bamboozled blacks."

In an interview yesterday, Steele said he had not heard the 60-second spot but said he generally does not oppose Republican efforts to assert their "real place in history." Today, though, his campaign released a statement blasting the ad.
"NBRA's current radio ad is insulting to Marylanders and should come down immediately," the statement says. "Although they may have had good intentions, there is no room for this kind of slash-and-burn partisan politics in the important conversation about how to best bring meaningful change to Washington, D.C. and get something done for Maryland."

As it turned out, Steele's would-have-been Republican colleague from Georgia Saxby Chambliss didn't make things any easier for him that same week. During a closed door session of the Senate Armed Services Committee discussing American intelligence capabilities, Chambliss reportedly declared that the South would have won the Civil War if it had better intelligence, adding "We'd be quoting Jefferson Davis, not Lincoln." Chambliss, who defeated incumbent and triple Vietnam War amputee Max Cleland by comparing him to Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, defended his longing for Southern victory by claiming that his actual words were "if General J.E.B. Stuart had had better intelligence, we'd all be meeting in Richmond right now." (Note to the NBRA: the Ku Klux Klan was founded by Stuart's fellow Confederate legend Nathan Bedford Forrest.)
In Michael Steele's defense, he has a tough road to winning blacks back to the party of Lincoln. After all, many of its leading lights, including Haley Barbour, George Allen, Matt Blunt, Trent Lott and Jim Demint wax nostalgic about the ante bellum South. That Confederate flag-waving crowd includes 2012 White House hopeful Mike Huckabee, as well as Jim "You Lie" Wilson and his Capitol Hill defender from Iowa, Steve King. It's no wonder Barack Obama captured 95% of African-American voters last November.
And there can be little doubt that Dr. King would been among them.

2 comments on “Michael Steele's Problems with Dr. King Continue”

  1. Michael Steele is a total joke. But he's probably among the least embarrassing Rethug leaders these days.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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