By Michael Steele, on Wed May 15, 2013 at 8:30 AM ET
One of the hardest things to do in politics, believe it or not, is to standout. Sure you can go off and say something crazy; or even do something inherently stupid that will generate attention.
But most politicians and political parties don’t want that kind of attention. I’m talking about truly standing out: to be recognized for pushing against the conventional wisdom or fighting the status quo; or even better, standing against the prevailing winds of one’s party. That is a lot harder than you may imagine.
In a life spent advancing conservative principles, I have had the privilege of serving as a county chairman, a state chairman, a candidate and an elected official. When I assumed the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee in 2009 on the heels of humiliating defeats in 2006 and 2008, this would be my opportunity to advance those conservative principles in a new way; to go a bit against the grain, to push back on the “establishment” mindset that had led to these back to back devastating losses.
In short, for the party to survive it was time to turn the elephant to face its future. But have you ever tried to turn an elephant? Invariably, whichever end you start with will test your resolve.
GOP ‘lost its voice’
Republicans lost their voice on the things that mattered not long after the 2004 elections; and by 2008 that gap between our rhetoric and our actions had grown to the point that our credibility had completely snapped. From the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the implosion of the nation’s economy, more and more Americans began to view the party as out of step with the direction they believed the country should be heading. To make matters worse, what many inside and outside the arty failed to understand was it wasn’t the fault of our ideals or the principles we espoused, but rather the failure of our leadership to honor those principles.
Over time, our principles had morphed into baser motives. We became more interested in red vs. blue state politics, egged on by political know-it-alls and high-priced consultants. The net effect of their “leadership” diminished the noble vision of the Party of Lincoln—the party I had joined at the tender age of 17—as the GOP became the party of big government Republicanism.
It should be no secret to Republicans by now that the country has changed and continues to do so. You don’t need to spend a million bucks to figure that out. Nor do Republicans have to keep repeating “we need to reach out to [fill in the blank].” Shut up and do it already!
And that doesn’t mean sticking your finger in the air to check the prevailing political winds before “reaching out”; that’s blatantly disingenuous and the equivalent of the party giving voters the finger. Consequently, most Americans today see a Republican Party that defines itself by what it is against rather than what it is for.
Republicans will scream at President Obama for his spendthrift ways, but then fail to reconcile to voters their own spending habits. Republicans can tell you why public schools aren’t working, but not articulate a compelling vision for how they’ll make them successful. We’re well equipped to rail against tax increases; but can’t begin to explain how our policy prescriptions will help the poor and the middle class.
We’re great at talking about inclusion but not at actually including anyone.
2006, 2008 and now 2012 are painful reminders of the importance of owning our mistakes listening to the American people, and taking action on issues of importance to them — not us. If we are to regain the trust of the American people and restore the credibility of our ideas, a 21st Century GOP must reconnect with its radical past and focus importance on economic opportunity, civil rights, the environment, and individual liberties.
Party failed to heed warnings
During my last months as RNC Chairman, I warned the party that we stood on the precipice of Republicanism, ready to throw each other off, because some want a litmus test party. But that party of exclusion will not and must not succeed. For me, the Party of Lincoln was, and should be again, a party of opportunity and inclusion; assimilation and self-determination.
I still hold out hope that new voices consistent with the radical nature of Republicanism will give rise to a fresh approach to meet the challenges we face.
I will continue to be one of those voices. Let’s start that conversation on the healthcare, economic and political disparities that continue to cripple communities of color; let’s reframe the role of government not because we want to eliminate it; but because its purpose should be limited to serving the people and not itself; and let’s once again be the champion of the poor and middle class. Yes, a rising tide lifts all boats, but we can’t lose sight of those who don’t have a boat.
Republicans stand at the crossroads to their future and the voters are standing there with them wanting to know what we believe, how we will lead, and which way we intend go. They seek assurances that we are Republicans who see opportunity for every American not just those who donate to us or vote for us.
The Party of Lincoln was built on the uniting principles of hard work, personal responsibility, and self-determination. Republicans must once again call upon these principles to chart where the Party goes from here.
The catfight between former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele and his replacement, Reince Priebus, has reached screech level, with Steele belittling the party’s new focus on minorities as old news.
Appearing on the “Andrea Tantaros Show,” a nationally syndicated radio show, Steele called the GOP establishment that on Monday unveiled a $10 million minority outreach effort a bunch of “numb nuts” for ignoring the plan he instituted four years ago.
Steele also sounded ready to beat up Priebus. Asked by Tantaros who would win in a cage fight, Steele said, “Oh, no question, I would clean his clock.” How? “Just one knock on the head. It’s done.”
The Steele-Priebus battle is, in a way, a repeat of their 2011 duel for the RNC chairmanship. Steele didn’t have the votes and pulled out, clearing the way for Priebus, a former Wisconsin Republican Party chairman.
What’s more, he said that the current Republican Party is bloated. “The bottom line is you’ve to to be focused on what the purpose and the role of the party is. The national party is too big for its own britches right now. It’s centered around itself.”
Let’s be clear, Michael Steele could only have been as competent as the GOP policies allowed him to be. Under his stewardship of the RNC he successfully navigated contempt for the President, idiocy, and the many GOP fallacies perpetrated by the Tea Party into a winning formula. After-all he picked up 63 seats in the House and took control of the House.
Under his tenure Republicans won 51% of the vote vs 44% for the Democrats. While some may say that was done in spite of Steele, if they had lost or not win as big, he would have taken the brunt of the jokes and he would have been fired.
“You can criticize my tenure and say Steele is ‘buck wild,’ or ‘we don’t like his style and he’s gaffe prone,’” he says. “But the mission that they gave me when they hired me was two things: raise money — over $190 million in two years — and win elections. And in the process, we grew the party.”
Well there is definitely bad blood between the past chairman and the current chairman. At the Press Club when unveiling the party’s autopsy, Priebus states he walked into the RNC in 2011 with suspended RNC credit cards. When a reporter asked Priebus if Chairman Steele ruined the party financially he replied “I am not going to there. Listen, I think the numbers speak for themselves.”
Well maybe the numbers should speak for themselves as to his performance. `Steele replied accordingly on Andrea Mitchell Reports saying, “That’s the problem. I won and he didn’t.” He then went on stating all the victories he had in Blue and Purple states. He said the Republican Party made the decision to go into debt to win and they did. He said Priebus had surpluses and lost.
He caricatured the report being referred to as an autopsy as poor branding. He said the Party had no message and no focus.
By Michael Steele, on Wed Feb 6, 2013 at 3:00 PM ET
“We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that failure to do so would betray our children and future generations,” President Obama said in his inaugural address Monday. The address devoted more sentences to the environment more than any other specific subject. “Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.”
In that, former Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele said the president indicated that climate change would be a crucial part of his second term legacy.
“When I heard that line, what struck me is this is the Obamacare of the second administration” Steele said. “Climate change is going to be the sleeping dog issue that he is going to fashion and put into play, maybe a total package or piecemeal, but I think that’s going to be part of the second term legacy.”
Many assume that social issues would take a central stage in the second term, as Obama came out in favor of gay equality, against guns, and in favor of sweeping immigration reform. While those may also play a role in second-term agenda, Steele believes it’ll be climate change that has the greatest effect.
“It’s not going to be so much the social stuff that a lot of people, certainly in the conservative movement concern themselves with, it’s going to be the bigger idea that falls into that broader vision,” Steele said. “He reformed 1/6 of the nation’s economy with healthcare. Now he’s going to go to the next level with global change in the environment.”
Former Republican National Committee chairman and MSNBC commentator Michael Steele on Friday said he found the press conference led by National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre “very haunting and very disturbing.”
Asked by MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts for his immediate response to the NRA presser, Steele initially appeared speechless.
“I don’t even know where to begin,” Steele said. “As a supporter of the Second Amendment and a supporter of the NRA, even though I’m not a member of the NRA, I just found it very haunting and very disturbing that our country now, that are talking about arming our teachers and our principals in classrooms. What does that say about us? And I do not believe that’s where the American people want to go. I do not believe that is the response that should be coming out of the tragedy in Newtown.”
By Michael Steele, on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 3:00 PM ET
This morning on a teleconference moderated by LEVICK’s Michael W. Robinson, former White House special counsel Lanny Davis, and former chairman of the Republican National Committee Michael Steele nominated “Simpson-Bowles” to be TIME Magazine’s Person of The Year.
Michael stated, “It reflects the bipartisanship the American people are looking for, and would hope will emerge in Washington. At least two individuals put information in front of the American people that challenges the status quo. I highly support that and have been an advocate of the value that Simpson-Bowles brings to the debate.”
Lanny added, “It is absolutely immoral to use credit cards to have our children pay for our debt. The one combination that won 60% in a bipartisan commission is Simpson-Bowles. This is a purple bipartisan moment. No political party has stepped up to the line. As TIME’S “Person of the Year,” this would be the moment to ask President Obama and Speaker Boehner to endorse this.”
Purple Nation Solutions is a D.C.-based strategic communications and public affairs firm founded by former White House special counsel and legal crisis management expert Lanny J. Davis and former RNC chairman, Lt. Gov. of Maryland Michael Steele. Situated in the heart of downtown Washington D.C., in proximity to Capitol Hill, the White House and federal regulatory agencies, we are a bipartisan, global, one-stop shop where law, media, and politics intersect.
LEVICK is the leading strategic communications firm that establishes and protects trust. LEVICK deploys uniquely qualified teams – armed with the instincts, influence, and experience needed to win your battles in an increasingly complex and challenging world.
By Michael Steele, on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 10:00 AM ET
I was asked recently what lesson should the GOP have learned from the results of the 2012 presidential election. That’s easy: You can’t please everyone, but you sure can tick them all off at the same time!
Voters were not in the mood for petty political bickering or platitudes about “hope.” And they certainly weren’t in the mood for a conversation about “vaginal probes” or contraception. In fact, as the campaign dragged on they grew increasingly more skeptical of so called “political solutions” and even more negative about the direction the country was taking despite slight upticks in GDP and decreases in the unemployment rate. The most disturbing fact: more Americans now think their children will be worse off than they are.
These factors, among others, were intricate parts of a national debate that did not happen. Keep in mind, the stakes were already high due to the unceasing drag on the economy, the end of the Bush tax cuts, increasing tax rates vs. cutting tax loopholes. Consequently, the election results serve as an important lesson for both parties: for Democrats it’s time to stop blaming Bush and lead; and for Republicans it’s time for a reality check.
As I noted throughout the campaign, an overwhelming majority of voters sought answers and progress on the challenges we face, but Republicans found themselves preoccupied with amassing goo-gobs of cash instead and missed an important opportunity to use that cash to build on the successes of 2010 by communicating a message that was not bound by party lines. (To paraphrase my MSNBC colleague Chuck Todd after the election: “Republicans spent most of their time talking to themselves.”)
Consequently, voters were otherwise offered unprincipled drivel about nothing of much importance — that is, when we weren’t alienating African-Americans, Hispanics and anyone else who happened to get in the way of our talking to ourselves.
In my travels on behalf of federal, state and local candidates 2010, I saw a new generation of Republican leaders emerge who were serious about fiscal stewardship and who respected the opinions of those with whom they may not always agree. For example, then-candidates like New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and Congressman Tim Scott of South Carolina; or Govs. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Bob McDonnell of Virginia reflected the communities they came from and spoke with clarity on the issues that mattered in the everyday lives of individuals and families.
They knew and expressed with authenticity that there is no magic formula, secret potion or handshake that will make the GOP more attractive to voters. It would require work. Honest, hard, often frustrating but always important work! And they were ready to do the hard work required of true leaders and they won — from New Mexico to South Carolina; New Jersey to Virginia — with a message that never compromised our principles but did demonstrate the true breath of the GOP’s tent and our commitment to strong families, a strong economy and a safe and secure community in which to live.
The Republican leadership forgot that and got spanked.
While the postmortems continue, the Grand Old Party must once again become the Party of Lincoln — The Grand Opportunity Party. The top-down puppet management of the Republican National Committee must recognize our strength does not rest in their special interests but rather in the interests of our grassroots; that it’s finally time to give way to those “Hip Hop” Republicans I talked about in 2009. And no, I’m not talking about (as I wasn’t then) dressing Sen. Mitch McConnell in some bling and a Pelle Pelle Throwback leather jacket. Rather, I’m talking about creating a state of mind within the GOP more reflective of America’s exciting and vibrant culture, as diverse as it is bold.
Read the rest of… Michael Steele: Opportunity Lost?