Baloney, Michael Steele (Updated)

Michael Steele told ABC News that racism lies behind the torrent of criticism he's received pretty much since becoming RNC chairman. Let's get something straight: Michael Steele has plenty of problems, but his race isn't one of them. Steele is hapless, solipsistic, and incompetent. When he isn't embarrassing his party with his personal antics, or his staff's, he's setting it up for failure by driving away its top fundraisers and not keeping pace with Democrats. It's impossible to imagine his magisterial display of buffoonery going unpunished in almost any circumstance--but it is going unpunished, and Steele appears to be in no danger of losing his job. Far from being a problem, his race is all that's standing between Steele and a pink slip. ).

Ordinarily, you'd have a hard time finding the control for this thought experiment. But Democrats happen to have a high-profile embarrassment of their own, and he, too, is black. It's telling that New York governor David Patterson got forced out of his reelection campaign with barely a peep being made about his race. Patterson was judged on the merits, as he should have been, and found lacking. It's remarkable that Republicans, after a generation of complaining about racial quotas and political correctness, seem paralyzed by Steele's race. They appear to have internalized the very "liberal mindset" they once warned against. Steele presents a perfect opportunity for them to leave race aside and make a judgment strictly on merit. And they're flinching.

Update: Smart friend points out that race got the GOP into this whole mess: if Katon Dawson hadn't belonged to whites-only country club, Steele might never have been chairman.

The GOP, on the other hand, does have a race problem. It won't fire Michael Steele because he is black. Were it not as homogeneous as it is, the party would be able to fire Steele without fear of provoking the racial recriminations that might accompany the ouster of one of its few black members (although I doubt it would provoke anything but relief--Steele's clownishness gives the GOP all the cover it needs

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Joshua Green is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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