The problem with the Republican party is that the die-hard conservative, Christian-right is holding down the party. Here is the prime example, by way of a contrast between the real head of teh GOP and the public face of the GOP. Chairman of the RNC (which is the highest office in the party now) Michael Steele came out with this to say in an interview over the past 24 hours:
On if women have the right to choose an abortion: “Yeah. I mean, again, I think that’s an individual choice.”
On whether homosexuality is a choice: “Oh, no. I don’t think I’ve ever really subscribed to that view, that you can turn it on and off like a water tap. Um, you know, I think that there’s a whole lot that goes into the makeup of an individual that, uh, you just can’t simply say, oh, like, ‘Tomorrow morning I’m gonna stop being gay.’ It’s like saying, ‘Tomorrow morning I’m gonna stop being black.'”
Contrast this to all the sentiments and rhetoric we have heard over the past 8 years. Heck, even the past year with the general election last year. Steele is an African-American. That’s a big change for the leadership of the RNC. Then he makes statements that are aligned with even right-leaning Democrats. Really, he’s made statements that are mainstream of course. But the fact that he made them as head of the RNC shows that he wants to change the party.
The problem is that the party will not take on these comments. The only people left in the ranks are, as mentioned, die-hard conservatives and the Christian-right who all seem to object to statements of this nature. They won’t let him change the party on these issues. I predict he will be outed soon – probably after the Republicans lose the special election for the House seat that Hillary Clinton’s replacement in the Senate left. I thought the guy was sketchy, and probably should have gone when he originally arrived on the scene. But after these comments? He needs to stay.
Now, as I said, the problem is best highlighted with a contrast. While RNC chairman is the highest office in the land for the Republicans, the actual percieved leader of the party (thanks to Democratic tarring over the past couple of weeks) is Rush Limbaugh – the rightest, looniest, most disgusting spokesperson for the far-right. No need to quote anything his says, just cite some figures about public perception of him: at a 2 to 1 ratio (53 to 26), US voters view Limbaugh negatively. 43% of all voters view him extremely negatively. When the respondents are only independents, the ratio rises to 3 to 1 – higher than Democrats!
And here we have the problem for the GOP: More people across the country will listen to Limbaugh in a week, whether they agree with what he says or not, than they will listen to Steele. At the end of the week, more people will think that what Limbaugh espouses is what the Republicans are campaigning on, even without an election going on. And, when it comes to election time, because the far-right dominates the GOP and they listen to Limbaugh, to get their base vote candidates will have to parrot what Rush is saying. Vicious circle all the way down.
Edit: Just 8 hours later, and the pressure is already on. Steele has had to back right away from his abortion remarks. While in the previous interview he said it’s an individual choice, he has now released a statement that says he is opposed to abortion and thinks it should be banned in the constitution. You can only roll your eyes and sigh sometimes.
Edit: The next day, Mike Huckabee, potential 2012 primary candidate, and Ken Blackwell, one of the other candidates for the RNC chairmanship this year, both came out and hammered Steele for his comments on abortion. Blackwell effectively said “Shift to the far-right or quit your chairmanship”. He’s a goner.