Michael Steele had a choice: He could either run for re-election next month as chairman of the Republican National Committee or he could preempt a certain and decisive defeat by announcing in advance he will not seek a second term. Steele has chosen the latter. Whenever he leaves will not be a moment too soon. Even though the GOP made impressive gains in the last election, most Republicans view Steele as a disaster. However, he has been even more of a failure to African-Americans who would like nothing more than to have both major parties genuinely compete for their votes.
Steele revealed his decision in a conference call Monday night to supporters. At least five prominent Republicans, including former RNC co-chairwoman Ann Wagner, had announced they will seek to replace Steele.
Others had undercut Steele by establishing alternative ways to support Republican candidates in last month's election such as donating to the Republican Governors Association.
Whenever I think about Steele, the lyrics of Bill Withers'Use Me come to mind:
My friends feel it's their appointed duty
They keep trying to tell me all you want to do is use me
But my answer yeah to all that use me stuff
Is I wanna spread the news that if it feels this good getting used
Oh you keep on using me until you use me up
Michael Steele has willingly allowed himself to be used by the GOP. And, now that they have no more use for him, they are discarding him like a used tissue.
Steele was never a popular figure as chairman, winning on the sixth round of balloting. And, the only reason he won then was so that the GOP could use a Black man to counter the nation's first Black president. It was a role Steele relished.
He said at the time, "Having a Black president of the United States and a Black leader of the opposition is a wonderful testament to our country."
Steele may have set a record for gaffes.
Last year, he said: "In the history of mankind and womankind, government – federal, state or local – has never created one job. It's destroyed a lot of them."
According to the U.S. Labor Department's Bureau of Statistics, of the 153.7 million people in the civilian labor force, approximately 22.5 million held government jobs as of January 2009.
Steele can't even get it right when trying to woo Black voters.
When he was asked last year about Republican efforts to reach diverse populations, Steele told a group of bloggers, "My plan is to say, 'Y'all come' because of lot of you are already here." When someone in the audience yelled, "I'll bring the collard greens," Steele added, "I got the fried chicken and potato salad."
Many African-Americans saw nothing funny in Steele's comment.
In his eagerness to attack Obama, Steele said last summer that the Afghan war was a "war of Obama's choosing." Evidently everyone except Michael Steele knows that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were initiated by George W. Bush in retaliation for the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon.
Though quick to attack President Obama – even when the facts proved him wrong -- Steele was even quicker to defend riduculous statements by conservatives and genuflect for Rush Limbaugh.
Playing to the ridiculous views of birthers who contend that President Obama was not born in the United States, Steele defended an assertion by former House Speaker and potential Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich that Obama may hold a "Kenyan, anti-colonial view."
On his short-lived CNN program, comedian D.L. Hughley called Rush Limbaugh the "de facto leader of the Republican Party." Steele strongly disagreed, saying: "I'm the de facto leader of the Republican Party."
Steele dismissed Limbaugh as an incendiary entertainer. But, after Limbaugh lashed out at Steele on his radio program, Steele backed off, saying "Maybe I was a little bit inarticulate." He added, "What I was trying to say was a lot of people…want to make Rush the scapegoat, the bogeyman, and he's not."
Ironically, the Republican Party grew even more conservative during Steele's tenure. That had more to do with a Tea Party movement that challenged both moderate and conservative Republican incumbents than a leadership failure on Steele's part.
Meanwhile, Black voters were not eating from Steele's political menu. In fact, the share of Blacks voting Republican in congressional races decreased from 11 percent in 2006, the previous off year election, to 9 percent in November.
Michael Steele could not offer enough chicken and potato salad to change that outcome.
George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach.