RNC Chair Michael Steele has been in the news this week due to a significant increase in his already substantial average number of blunders. There is no shortage of stories about his hi jinx on the interwebz and I won’t attempt to list them here.
But here’s a quick run down. To simply say he’s a gaffe machine is to do him an injustice. He apparently spends like a drunken sailor but is very bad at raising money, even prompting quite a few big time donors to funnel their money around the RNC. He, unprecedentedly, accepts big paydays for speaking engagements. He wrote a book and didn’t tell any of his Republican pals about it. He said he wrote the book before he became chairman, however, the book contains reference after reference to events that occurred after he assumed the chairmanship.
So now there’s speculation that he might be ousted as chair, especially after he canceled an appearance yesterday and claimed he had to go to an ’emergency’ RNC meeting. Strangely, RNC officials first said there was no meeting and then said there was a meeting but it wasn’t an emergency meeting.
Any party representing a robust coalition would indeed give Steele the boot. They would have done so long before the new year. However, the Republican party does not currently represent a robust coalition.
It represents badly fractured and infighting groups that just barely can even claim the title of a coalition. Steele is turning out to be very very bad. But the bloodbath that would ensue in the battle over who should replace him would be much much worse.
I think, frankly, that the Republicans picked Steele for the same reason McCain picked Palin. McCain thought that by picking someone — anyone — with girl parts instead of boy parts, he could win over the mythical PUMAs. Despite the lessons Alan Keyes should have taught them, the Republicans voting for RNC chair similarly thought that selecting a black man for a leadership position would just, y’know, cancel out the election of Obama.
Both of these actions will not only fail to garner them long term advantage, they both were and continue to be disastrous in the short and medium terms as well. Palin has come to symbolize the teabaggers’ fight against the establishment and is set to cause great damage to the party with independents and moderates both in 2010 and in 2012.
Steele seems to be angering almost everyone in pretty much all factions of the fractious party. So why is he still around?
Because all sides know that if he is made to go, the fight over who to replace him will be more than just nasty and embarrassing, it will likely be crippling. I’ve written that there is already going to be a lot of intra party and intra movement sniping and bloodletting this spring and summer in the Republican coalition.
While extremely harmful, this infighting that will be prelude to the general election is at least not unforeseen. But a fight over Steele’s replacement would be a new and unexpected bloody prelude to bloody prelude to a bloody general.
Although I would find such a meltdown fascinating to observe, at this point, I don’t think it’s likely. Steele will have to really up the ante on his misbehavior to prompt such a scenario. On the other hand, Steele knows all of this and will likely feel emboldened to keep up his antics.
Let’s see how far he’s willing to push the envelope and just how elastic that envelope is.