Chairman Steele Confronts His Party's Intolerant Past.....and Present

For the last few years I've written a great deal about how I believed that there was no way to understand the recent conservative ascendancy in American politics without understanding that at its core was an ugly intolerance, a sustained and strategic exploitation of racial fear, a divisive politics which became known as the Southern Strategy.  I discussed this idea at length in a recent video essay called The Politics of Intolerance. 

I have also argued that for the modern GOP to have a fighting chance at appealing to the more racially diverse America of the 21st century, it would have to do more than adapt to the new demographic realities of our country.  The new leaders of the GOP would have to acknowledge and repudiate the ugly intolerance at the core of the Southern Strategy.  It is also something that I have never been terribly optimistic that would happen, certainly not in the next few years.

Which is why I found this passage from a NY Times blog, reviewing an interview with RNC Chairman Michael Steele, so interesting:

During this interview, Wolf Blitzer, the CNN host, confronted Mr. Steele with the composition of the Republican House and Senate — displaying the nearly all-white makeup on the G.O.P. side against the polyglot of the Democrats during the joint session of Congress which Mr. Obama addressed. (The setting where Congressman Wilson uttered his outburst.)

Mr. Steele acknowledged the racial divide between the parties: “I’ll accept the indictment. I’ll accept it, you know. And I — and I know we’ve got to change. And our party has, for over a generation, employed a strategy that right now we wish — many of us wish we never had."

"Many of us wish we never had."  Wow.  All of us need to hear more about this from Michael Steele in the days ahead.  What exactly does this mean, Chairman Steele? That you have regret over Willie Horton, the demonization of Hispanics, the caricatures of the Welfare Queen, of systemic voter suppression and so much more?

There are many reasons we helped launch this new campaign, Drop Dobbs, these past few days.  But chief among them is the desire to continue to liberate America from the destructive racial politics of the Southern Strategy era of American politics, an era which Lou Dobbs seems to be relentlessly unwilling to let go of.   This statement by Michael Steele gives me hope that the once proud party of Lincoln can once again embrace its heritage and help us confront - and then move beyond - the modern GOP's shameful Southern Strategy brand of politics.