After the nationwide Republican debacle two years ago, I thought the Republican Party needed to mix things up.
My first choice to lead the Republican National Committee was Newt Gingrich. While his time as speaker was marred with public relation blunder after another, nobody questioned his genius as the leader of the historic conservative insurgency.
After the party had gone stale with the public as George W. Bush’s administration drew to a close, I felt Newt, who was a better revolutionary than an administrator, was the right man to develop and execute the GOP Comeback 2.0.
However, I felt there was little chance of this happening. If Newt wanted the position of RNC chairman, I had no doubt he would have secured it from the committee members with only slightly more fuss as when the national GOP governing body rubber-stamps White House-anointed chairmen.
The question was a matter of Newt accepting it for financial reasons. The job would mark a significant pay decrease and would remove him from the numerous projects and organizations he plays a key role in.
Newt punted on the idea not along after grassroots types publicly entertained it.
My next choice was the ex-lieutenant governor of Maryland, who had just lost a bruising bid for the US Senate.
On first glance, Michael Steele seemed perfect as the antithesis of the past half dozen or so RNC chairmen. The Republican Party needed to turn the corner in this new political era, aggressively breaking out of the country club stereotype.
Before clambering aboard the Steele bandwagon, I put in a call to a Maryland political operative who had dealings with him to confirm my hopes.
Instead of doing that, my source dumped a load of stories of organizational mismanagement and cronyism that would negate whatever “pop” the GOP would receive for having its first non-traditional (i.e. white male) chairman.
I went from supporting Steele to backing “Anyone But”.
During the multiple ballots that took place at the first “free” RNC election since 1998, South Carolina Republican Party chairman Katon Dawson emerged as the primary rival to Steele’s candidacy.
And here was where the Republican establishment decided to act like Jesse Jackson.
A “well poisoning” campaign was launched to portray Dawson as the “klan candidate” for having been a member of an all-white country club in his homestate.
That Dawson publicly called for the facility to end its exclusivity meant nothing to the powers that be, arguing that a Dawson election would be “spun” negatively by the media in the aftermath of the historic Obama victory.
Lord, I thought, no wonder McCain lost.
These fools never learned the lessons/consequences of putting faith in media fairness and trying to accommodate the fickle fancies of the fourth estate.
And what was the result of this gambit where “public relations points” trumped competence?
The establishment once again displayed their political ignorance and got exactly what they deserved.
The man they helped elect by unfairly demonizing his principal opponent had become public enemy number one.
Though the Republican Party achieved great success in the 2009 and 2010 midterm elections, there was considerable debate concerning how much credit should be shared with Steele.
Money was largely steered around the RNC in 2010 and Steele proved to be gaffe prone when he wasn’t running the Republican National Committee in the same manner that Kwame Kilpatrick ran Detroit.
Sweetheart deals related to the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, a number of marginal GOP losses that could have gone the other way through better funding allocation decisions and a debt to the tune of $21,000,000 are the indisputable legacies of an individual who was selected for the wrong reasons to head a national political party.
The best thing that could be said about Steele was that he actively engaged the local and state parties and the auxiliary organizations.
It’s unlikely any RNC chairmen visited with the national Young Republicans more than Steele, in contrast to Ken Mehlman, who “bothered” to speak to the national YRs for only a few minutes and referred to them as the College Republicans (a different organization) throughout his hurried visit.
Hopefully newly elected Republican chairman Reince Priebus of Wisconsin will not spurn the grassroots folks while bringing stability to the national party and reassuring contributors that their dollars will be responsibly spent.
The RNC doesn’t need another Michael Steele pulling the levers; but they don’t need another Ken Mehlman either.