Tuesday, November 08, 2005


Nerves of Steele...

After a fortnight of commentary, it's good to actually hear from Michael Steele himself on the racial politics of a U.S. Senate race that won't be decided for a year. In particular, he goes after the Maryland Democrats who've adopted the "by any means necessary" approach to electoral battles -- including racial taunts against the black Republican:
"The fact that my values are outside the black community... will come as a surprise to my mother, who raised me with those values," said Mr. Steele, whose widowed mother raised him in the District working as a minimum-wage seamstress and refused welfare.
"When I have opponents like that say that I am anti-black, [I say] show me in my rhetoric where I have been anti-black, tell what I have said that has been anti-black," he said.
"When I talk about empowering my community and all communities, not just African-Americans but everyone, when I talk about giving your business a fair opportunity, a fair shake, giving your child a fair shot at a good education, giving your community a fair shot at re-establishing itself and growing again, I don't know where that becomes anti-anyone."
Mr. Steele commended Kweisi Mfume, a candidate in the race to replace retiring Democratic U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, for criticizing fellow black Democrats who approve of racial attacks. Mr. Mfume, former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was joined by members of the Congressional Black Caucus in saying that Baltimore lawmakers in the General Assembly should "cease and desist" from making racial comments about Mr. Steele.

I think an ideological battle between an Mfume and a Steele -- despite some of the recent ugliness -- could be one of the better things to happen to politics. Here you have two very serious, successful, black men, neither of whom had an "easy" upbringing with very different approaches to politics. This is not the Alan Keyes farce of a year ago.

Two further observations on this continuing story:

1) So Maryland has the largest African-American population of any non-South state and blacks are the most loyal part of state Democrats' base (as they are nationally). So, isn't it interesting that not only is Republican Steele the first black to be elected statewide (albeit as a running mate) but Mfume is struggling pretty mightily in the Democratic primary?

According to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, Mr. Steele has raised more money for his Senate bid than any other candidate except Mr. Cardin. Mr. Steele had raised more than $400,000 for a campaign and has about $350,000 in cash on hand, while Mr. Cardin had raised $837,000 in the past three months and has $1.5 million in the bank, the Associated Press reported last month.
Money isn't everything but fundraising demonstrates where the various "big-money" interests in a political party are placing their bets. Democrats in Maryland seem to be looking more favorably at the Senate candidacy of Mfume's white rival U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin. This is the case, despite the fact that Mfume has had a long career as a member of Congress, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and, finally, president of the NAACP -- leaving the organization in much better financial shape than he found it.

Is there an issue
of a relationship with a staff member? Yes, but should that be enough to make Mfume completely radioactive in this heavily Democratic state? The "loyalty" issue can go both ways. If Mfume continues to struggle on the money-raising side, will blacks start wondering if Democratic party money leaders will return the loyalty to viable black candidates?

2) Was the Steele-Sambo controversy the first real "Blog breakout" story? There have been several stories that bloggers first raged about -- Trent Lott in '02 and Dan Rather in '04 -- before the MSM got into it. But, as far as I can tell, Steve Gilliard's posting is the first time that one blog post -- absent a outside event -- set off a series of dominoes that rippled into two statewide races (one a year away) and may have further ramifications.

Hmmm... could be.

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