Steele And The Broadening Of Tents

As the Republican Party struggles to find its footing as a broader coalition of voices and interests, so too does its chairman, Michael Steele. On a diplomatic mission to the political middle on Friday in Wisconsin, Steele said this to reporters at a news conference at the Wisconsin GOP's annual convention in La Crosse, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

"All you moderates out there, y'all come. I mean, that's the message," Steele said at a news conference. "The message of this party is this is a big table for everyone to have a seat. I have a place setting with your name on the front.

"Understand that when you come into someone's house, you're not looking to change it. You come in because that's the place you want to be."

The New York Times documented the GOP's crisis last week as a debate between a broader party or a purer one, and those are the two strains that run through Republican deliberations on the party's future: 1)a welcoming of new voices and 2)a return to conservative principles. Ronald Reagan is used as an example in both arguments.

As the party's main spokesman, Steele is caught at the intersection of those two ideas as much as anyone. His comments in La Crosse lead to the question: how can the GOP broaden its tent without changing? If it includes more moderates, won't that necessarily change it?

Steele's advertisement seems predicated on the notion that his party has a lot to offer moderates--and that's a question of communications, messaging, and sales. Perhaps Republicans like Steele don't want a moderate takeover; perhaps they want to make up their own minds about the party before those independents come flooding in...