Monday, May 04, 2009

Michael Steele's Phony Hospitality

Back in January, there were many people who hoped that Michael Steele would become the next chairman of the GOP. He had worked on the centrist Republican Leadership Council and had made some pledges to work hard to include moderates in the party.

Five months later, I now see the former Lt. Governor of Maryland as a joke. Instead of standing up for moderates, he has caved in the far right.

But in his mind, the party is still open to moderates: as long as they sit down, shut up and know who is running this party. He said as much in an interview with National Public Radio last Wednesday when asked if there was room for pro-choice Republicans:

Yeah, sure, why not? Look, I'm not going to stand at the door with a little checklist and say, well, you can be a Republican and you can't. I welcome everyone to this party. But understand, it's like — you know, when I come to your house for dinner, all right, and I sit down at your table, what do you think of me when I look at your wife or look at you and go, "You know, this is a nice meal but I would have preferred chicken. And if you could take this plate off, I think I'd like a different type of china." It is what you serve.

NPR Host Robert Siegel pushes him on this statement by wondering if the pro-life people are the hosts of the party:

And well, it's not just that they're our guests. It's just that you're welcome into their house but understand, you know, when you come in that there's some core principles and values. And it's not just pro-values and pro-family; we're talking about pro-markets. We're pro-business. We're talking about the empowerment of individuals to take ownership and keep more of their hard-earned money. And if those things matter more to you than what we see unfolding right now with this administration, you're welcome to come here.

A few days later in Wisconsin, he makes a similar statement, that all are welcome but...

"All you moderates out there, y'all come. I mean, that's the message," Steele said at a news conference. "The message of this party is this is a big table for everyone to have a seat. I have a place setting with your name on the front.

"Understand that when you come into someone's house, you're not looking to change it. You come in because that's the place you want to be."

Blogger Rick Moran notes what happens when you come into the GOP house and actually do say something:

Everyone can come in and sit down for the feast but if you are pro-choice, or pro-gay marriage, or pro-amnesty, kindly realize that no one is going to listen to you so you might as well keep your mouth shut. Meanwhile, your cousins and other relations can publicly chastise you for your different opinions, actively seek to undermine your re-election by running a primary challenger against you, deny you party support, and will stay at home on election day so a Democrat will probably defeat you anyway.

An exaggeration? Not by much if you listen to many conservatives on talk radio and the internet. For these activists, war has been declared on those they consider “establishment” Republicans or “elitists.” Just what makes these animals dangerous is never articulated to a satisfactory degree. Sometimes, the transgression is as small as praising President Obama for something he’s done. More serious violations include working with Democrats in Congress to solve problems, being pro-choice, or daring to say that the party has become too ideological and even too conservative to win in many states and districts around the country.

I really don't know who Mr. Steele thinks he's fooling. What he is offering is phony hospitality, likening the GOP to some kind of club where if you follow the club rules, you are okay, but woe to the one that doesn't.

But political parties are not exclusive clubs: they are coalitions of varying interests. The problem here is that a few or one member of the Republican coalition has started to think that they are it and that to be in the party means everyone must be like them.

And Mr. Steele who once talked about how the far right must be more tolerant of moderates is now offering this shuck and jive faux hospitality that says we can be part of the group as long as we toe the line

That's not hospitality; that's bullying and Mr. Steele should know better.

Call this what it is, Mr. Steele. Stop pretending you are being welcoming to us moderates. You aren't.

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