Newly elected Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele plans an “off the hook” public relations offensive to attract younger voters, especially blacks and Hispanics, by applying the party's principles to “urban-suburban hip-hop settings.”
The RNC's first black chairman will “surprise everyone” when updating the party's image using the Internet and advertisements on radio, on television and in print, he told The Washington Times.
Yesterday Gwen Ifill said that the Republican Party wasn't "so caught up with the idea of Barack Obama being black that they were going to sacrifice their need to come back just to elect a black guy.” Okay well, I'd agree that they weren't caught up with the idea of Barack Obama so much as they suddenly felt as though their lack of diversity was becoming a political liability, but I'm not sure what else Steele was offering. He shares the same obsession with rebranding rather than developing new policy ideas that all the other RNC candidates had, and he's still preoccupied with it at the expense of everything else.
I also honestly find Steele's behavior more offensive than the idea that Republicans picked him out of a desire to change the image of the party. The idea that you're going to lure black voters to the GOP by laying an ad over Nas and Jay-Z's "Black Republican" is ridiculous, and it seems designed to remind the GOP that Michael Steele is black than it is meant to get any young people or people of color to join the party. It's narcissistic and insecure. What drives me crazy is that I always thought there was a possibility that Steele was using Republicans' desire not to be seen as racist in order to win the RNC race, but had every intent of driving them away from the racialized ignorance of "The Magic Negro." But he's still acting like he needs to win the approval of the people who elected him by reminding them how cool he is.
Look, I'll be the first person to argue that mainstream Hip-hop is, at some level, fundamentally conservative. But that doesn't mean it's easily co-opted by outsiders, particularly for political purposes. Obama didn't market himself to Hip-hop, heads were inspired by his example, despite, or perhaps because of, his rather insightful criticism of the culture. Steele is just assuming that being black makes this approach credible. It doesn't.
-- A. Serwer