Thursday, March 12, 2009

Michael Steele: Lost in Translation

When the initial vote was announced, I stood and clapped for the history that just unfolded. Michael Steele became the first black national chairman of the GOP. Reflecting on the moment, I finally felt the party was becoming inclusive by promoting one of its most promising talents. Surely he would bring fresh ideas and reach out to all areas of the electorate.

In his acceptance speech, Steele promised to “bring this party to every corner, every neighborhood”. He promised to “build and grow this party in a way we’ve never seen before”. The party would take its principles, values and challenge democratic strongholds across our country. My initial reaction was one of relief, as a new era in Republican strategy and networking would finally take hold.

Soon after, Steele began taking his message to the airwaves. The introduction was underway. Steele projected a strong, confident style of leadership. However, the oddest thing happened…something that caused me to pause and do a double take. Steele stated the party need to take its principles and apply them to a “hip-hop setting”. Naturally, I assumed he was taken out of context and gave the statement little attention. That is until he began speaking on various media outlets… my eyes closed tightly in disbelief.

Steele has invoked words like “Bling Bling”, "Friggin", “Baby” and even threw a “Shout Out” to Bobby Jindal. However, all things culminated during the CPAC meeting when Michelle Bachmann congratulated Steele by stating: “You be da’ man”. At that moment, you could feel the collective cringe of embarrassment across the country.

We must realize that using "street" terminology and clever catch phrases is not the new image we wish to project. The party must look to one on one interaction at the grassroots level and actually initiate authentic outreach programs. Understandably, Steele is getting use to being the face and spokesman for the national party. However, minus the rocky start, I still believe he will be a strong leader for our party... just lay off the "jive" talk.

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