RNC Chairman Michael Steele: "For the last 40-plus years we had a 'Southern Strategy' that alienated many minority voters by focusing on the white male vote in the South."
Greg Sargent has more:
A lot of people are pointing to a new set of remarks Michael Steele made about the Republican Party and race, in which Steele acknowledged that the GOP hasn’t given African Americans a reason to support the party.
But I think folks are missing the real news in what Steele said. The RNC chairman also appeared to acknowledge that the GOP has had a race-based “southern strategy” for four decades, which is decidedly not a historical interpretation many Republicans agree with.
Steele made his remarks at DePaul University on Tuesday night. He acknowledged that “we haven’t done a very good job” of giving African Americans a reason to vote Republican. That’s actually unremarkable. But here’s what he also said:
“We have lost sight of the historic, integral link between the party and African-Americans,” Steele said. “This party was co-founded by blacks, among them Frederick Douglass. The Republican Party had a hand in forming the NAACP, and yet we have mistreated that relationship. People don’t walk away from parties. Their parties walk away from them.
“For the last 40-plus years we had a ‘Southern Strategy’ that alienated many minority voters by focusing on the white male vote in the South. Well, guess what happened in 1992, folks, ‘Bubba’ went back home to the Democratic Party and voted for Bill Clinton.”
I’m not sure this is an interpretation most Republicans would agree with. The standard line is that, yes, Nixon did employ a “southern strategy.” But most Republicans would strongly contest the idea that Reagan tried to use racial division for electoral gain, an idea advanced by liberals who point out that Reagan opened his 1980 presidential campaign in the town where Civil Rights workers were murdered.
Similarly, many Republicans would reject the claim that Republican candidates like George H.W. Bush engaged in a race-based strategy with the Willie Horton ads, or that Bush the Younger or John McCain engaged in subtle race-based appeals.
But here you have the chairman of the Republican National Committee saying, in effect, that liberals are right to have argued that Republicans have used race for political gain for the last four decades. Seems significant.