by Dr. Marc Lamont Hill
Over the past week, the political world has been tuned into a highly
unusual soap opera involving Republican Committee Chair Michael Steele and conservative radio jock Rush Limbaugh. After Limbaugh was publicly lambasted for stating that he wanted President Obama’s agenda to fail, Democratic leaders wisely used the moment as an opportunity to anoint the polarizing pundit as the de facto leader of the GOP. Steele, the actual leader of the party, dismissed Limbaugh as a mere “entertainer” whose show trades in “ugly” and “incendiary” remarks. Limbaugh soon fired back, telling Steele to do his job and to stop acting like a “talking head media star.”
Of course, partisan infighting is not uncommon in politics –though
such public spats are typically the property of the Democrats. The
difference, however, has been the party’s response. Instead of
rallying around its newly appointed leader Steele, GOP honchos have
either taken the side of Rush Limbaugh or remained conspicuously
silent. Even Steele himself caved into Limbaugh, apologizing for his
remarks and removing any lingering doubt about who the real don is.
By allowing Michael Steele to be publicly undressed by a party
extremist, Republicans have tacitly confirmed what many of us already knew: they haven’t changed one bit. Despite their post-November promises to rise above bitter partisanship, the GOP decided to cosign Limbaugh’s antipatriotic machinations. Instead of living up to their promise to broaden their message and appeal, Republicans have instead opted to defer to the steward of its most vile, ignorant, and bigoted constituency. Most disturbingly, they have legitimized their antidemocratic enterprise by hiring a black man, but giving him no more political muscle than the queen of England.
To be clear, I am not trying to diss Michael Steele, who I know
personally and like a great deal despite our political differences. My
concern is that the seductive aroma of power and prestige have
diverted his attention from the harsh realities of his circumstance.
Like many prominent African Americans, Steele has climbed the heights of white society under the false premise that he is being judged purely on merit rather than color. This couldn’t be further from the truth. While the Republican party is willing to use Steele’s black face to celebrate its ostensible progress, it is equally committed to reducing him to nothing more than a paper champion. Hopefully, Brother Steele will stop drinking the Kool-Aid long enough to recognize this and come back home.