For some reason the latest news got me thinking about the race for RNC chair in 2009. It was fun to watch the GOP realize all of a sudden that they might not want to lead the Obama hate with a bunch of old white guys who have a notorious history cultivating racists and racism. The leading candidate at the time, Katon Dawson, mostly made his name for a no-negroes-allowed country club they he belonged to*. Maybe not the best year for that. Instead of Dawson they picked Michael Steele, a wealthy black businessman with some brain-mouth filter issues.
Their plan worked in the sense that Republicans got their freak on without too many mainstream pundits calling them racist. On the other hand Steele called them racist all the time. Pro tip: if you hire a guy to cry racism every time someone criticizes him, do not criticize him.
Steele ran the RNC into the ground, blew through its money, drove its staff to quit and embarrassed the party with one gaffe after another. They could hardly can him (see: touchy about that race record) so instead Republicans marginalized the Committe by shunting cash donations and organizing tasks to state committees and outside groups.
What did we learn from the Michael Steele affair? Either nobody bothered to read his CV, or else they did not care that he stood out enough in a party riddled with bugshit that even a chump like me could guess what happened next. The only explanation that makes sense (and what rightwing blogs more or less said at the time) is that they hoped to can some of that special mojo that makes it hard to attack Obama without looking bad.
Michael Steele constantly talked about how black he is. His silly street talk was about as convincing as saggy pants at Andover. He knee jerked to racism so fast that he overshot his target and sprayed friendly fire all over the place. Hermann Cain constantly talks about how black he is. The first time his campaign faced heat he cried racism like he was holding his breath for the chance to use it.
Of course Obama’s win had nothing to do with being black. I can remember zero times that Obama brought up the subject of race, except in his book (where he could hardly avoid it) and the rare times an interviewer asked about it. As far as I could tell his sales pitch for the nomination or for the national race did not mention race at all. If anyone knows one time when Obama has cried racism I would love to hear it.
Obama’s mojo comes from who he is, not what. He is a squeaky clean guy who somehow keeps his people in line as well. He acknowledges his flaws, has good instincts, charisma and a Reaganesque knack for communicating, especially (frustratingly) when the heat is on. In short he is good at politics. You can’t steal that.
(*) A problem strictly in the sense that it gave the misleading impression that the GOP is a party of cultural neanderthals and Civil War sore losers.