Man of Steele


The new face of the RNC

The new face of the RNC

This past Saturday the GOP elected it’s new RNC chairman, Michael Steele… and look, he’s black!  I wonder if Obama’s election had anything to do with this? Well, actually I don’t, I’m pretty sure it had everything to do with our new president.

Just as Sarah Palin was picked to run for the Vice Presidency in order to make the Republican party look more progressive, Steele is meant to be the GOPs answer to the criticism that it’s a dying and regional southern party. Similar to Palin, however, the party is quick to remind everyone that he is still conservative, so you can have your image of a model minority politician and keep your conservative policies too. Fox News pundit Sean Hannity showed this better than anyone when Steele went on his show.

Hannity is quick point out his close ties with the new chairman and states “I was supporting you for a lot of different reasons Michael, and not the least of which is you are a conservative.” Hannity is quickly reassuring the conservative viewers that this black man is not a radical socialist, contrary to what you might quickly believe. What is implicitly put forth is that Steele’s race defines his political beliefs. Obama dealt with numerous accusations of being a crazy left-wing liberal or a radical muslim, both of which he is not. These accusations were simply based on assumptions that race defines a political affiliation. Certainly, you could point out the fact that statistically African-Americans vote Democrat, but Steele has never been anything close to that. He’s still against abortion, pulling out of Iraq, and the stimulus plan that Obama proposed last week.

Perhaps what’s more disconcerting however is how Fox News is making a pretty clear comparison between Barack Obama and Michael Steele and the way the RNC chairman is framed. Take this clip for example:

It’s not hard to see the implications of a statement like “his easy-going camera-ready sound bites aside, Steele says his party has real image problems and warned those who might get in the way of change.” The comparison between Obama and Steele in regards to policy is sparse. What Fox is attempting to do is frame Steele in similarity with Obama because of their entertainment quality. The clip ends with the correspondent remakring the Steele is “good with applause lines.” It’s quotes like these that exemplify the type of framing that is pervasive of African-Americans on the news, that of the entertaining minority. Steele is framed as  a performer who uses funny colloquialisms like “Howd’ya like me now?” 

The same model minority rhetoric that followed Palin and Obama is certainly bound to follow Steele who mentions how he grew up in DC. One can be sure that Louisiana Republican Bobby Jindal will soon be in the GOP limelight as another conservative minority. Steele’s election is a political move that appears to be post-racial, yet is highly racialized. Fox News’s coverage shows that the Republicans chose him for his image; that of the conservative, entertaining, and model minority.


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