Saturday, February 07, 2009

David Broder, Michael Steele, and Maryland

David Broder's column in the Washington Post touched on a regular theme for Broder: the need for the two major parties to move towards the center. This one focused on the current Republican wander in the wilderness. But it didn't really capture my attention until he dropped the seemingly innocuous but nonetheless jaw-dropping phrase: "Maryland, where Steele built his political base. . ."

Stop the presses. Michael Steele has a political base??!!

It's true that he was elected our lite gov but on a ticket with Robert Ehrlich. Unlike his successor, Anthony Brown, Steele has never held elective office in his own right. Steele ran for the Senate in 2006 but was decisively beat by Ben Cardin. Steele hails from Prince George's but has never carried this Democratic bastion.

Of course, Steele's real base are the party insiders who elected him party chairman. Indeed, running for office has been a career for Steele--literally in that he paid himself a salary out of campaign funds. Apparently, he also employed relations in running for office. It's part of his long career of falling upward despite past failures.

David Broder no doubt knows all of this. Perhaps it is an excess of politeness by a man well known for his courtesy. Even so, Steele's failure in Blue Maryland only underscores how little chance it is that he will develop new ways of turning his party back towards the center or figuring out how to win Blue America as called for by Mr. Broder.

All the better for Democrats.

David Broder's conclusion that the selection of Steele shows that the Republicans realize that they need to move beyond their southern redoubt may or may not be correct. However, Steele's past shows little ability to get the GOP where they need to be or even that he knows the way. That--rather than the idea that Republicans now realize they need to move beyond the South--would have been a more unvarnished conclusion for the article.