Some thoughts on Michael Steele

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It's tempting to go all roflerz over the RNC's selection of Michael Steele as chairmen. But I think the proper response is a salute. I have no idea whether Steele will be any good, but I think his selection marks the start of excising the Obama is a M00zlim contingent of the party. I am, perhaps, being too optimistic. But I maintain that you have to begin somewhere. Conservatives have, for years, ridiculed Democratic diversity efforts and some of those efforts should have been ridiculed. There is no question that Geraldine Ferraro, for instance, was a token.

But in the fight for inclusion, like most fights, your persistence is more important than your fuck-ups. The result of decades of persistent Democratic efforts towards inclusion yielded a primary featuring a white woman and black man, both of whom were talented heavyweight politicians--the anti-Ferraros, if you will. Because the  GOP, has spent much of the immediate past, celebrating its own homogeneity is way way behind.

Think about it like this whereas Democrats have several potential African-American stars on the horizon--people who can actually go out, compete and win--Michael Steele essentially owes his career to appointments. That's not a dis--Steele's electoral problems have less to do with his own political gifts, than they have to do with the relationship between his party and minorities. As a black man running in a state like Maryland, you could be the next, well, Barack Obama. But if you're running under the banner of a party that your original constituency thinks hates them, you will not win.

I think Steele has a Sarah Palin problem. Remember the silly math that had Palin giving Obama fits for the votes of women? Ultimately, that line of attack fizzled because, I'd argue, a lot of women found Palin embarrassing--an obvious token who wasn't ready for prime-time. I think Steele is twice the politician that Sarah Palin is. But the question remains--How does he get black folks to look at him as more than a token? And how does he get that magic to extend itself to the broader party? Mel Martinez failed at doing exactly that for Latinos. Will Steele be any better?

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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