From the GOP convention: Open up the tent or die, says RNC chairman Michael Steele

Savannah — The blunt-spoken chairman of the Republican National committee told delegates to the state GOP convention this morning that they need to open the doors to fresh faces and fresh ideas, or risk becoming irrelevant to “the heartbeat of America.”

“Unfortunately, for a lot of folks in our party, they feel that to be in that rhythm compromises what we believe, compromises what we stand for, compromises our values. And I’m here to tell you, you’re wrong,” Michael Steele told several hundred Republicans gathered for an early breakfast.

Elected earlier this year, Steele himself is enmeshed in a struggle at the RNC over how best to recover from a four-year series of defeats. A meeting in Washington next week will include a challenge to Steele’s control over party finances, and whether Republicans should be obliged to refer to Democrats as “Democratic Socialists.”

“I inherited a party as chairman that was stuck in a 1980s philosophy using a 1990s strategy to win campaigns. You and I are going to change that. We’re going to make this a 21st century parties and we’re going to win elections that reflect the communities that we’re from,” Steele said.

Otherwise, the RNC chairman said, “Our party will not win. We will lose. Big. Do you want to be relevant? Then engage.”

The Associated Press chose to lead on this portion of Steele’s speech:

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele recast the gay marriage debate as a fiscal issue Saturday, saying allowing same-sex couples to marry places a financial burden on business.

In a breakfast speech to delegates of the Georgia Republican convention, Steele put himself in the shoes of a small business owner having to pay for health care and life insurance for a same-sex couple.

“Now all of a sudden I’ve got someone who wasn’t a spouse before, that I had no responsibility for, who is now getting claimed as a spouse that I now have financial responsibility for,” Steele said. “So how do I pay for that? Who pays for that? You just cost me money.”

Steele was not kind to President Barack Obama and what he called “the lie of bipartisanship.”

“It does not exist. You have Mr. Obama and [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid going out talking about how bipartisanship they’re trying to be. Well, it is a crock,” the chairman said.

But Steele, the party’s first African-American chairman, spent most of his time urging fellow Republicans to rethink their audience.

Steele admitted his direct, sometimes slang-ridden speech has made some Republicans uncomfortable. The chairman has taken criticism for his insistence that Republicans take their message “to the streets,” and focus on the creation of “hip-hop Republicans.”

“No, you don’t have to wear your pants down here, and the big bling,” Steele said this morning. “That’s not what I was talking about. It’s a metaphor for engagement. It’s a metaphor for talking this party to places and to people that we’ve either forgotten about, ignored or who don’t want to engage with us.”

Said Steele:

“We can no longer be afraid that to open up, to invite someone in, diminishes us. I don’t know how that works. If you are true to your convictions, to your core, why are you so afraid to share that?

“When people are invited in we have to understand this is a chance to welcome them, not push them away. But it’s their choice to come in. And in their coming in, they understand what we’re serving.

“The question is, do you? Have you forgotten who we are? Have you forgotten to be a Republican?”

Steele made a direct reference to the GOP struggle to re-elect U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss. Last year’s contest was forced into a run-off.

“He should never have been in that position, period,” Steele said. “Because we weren’t paying attention. We weren’t watchful of what our opponents were doing around us, to us, defining us, diminishing us, making a joke of us.”

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24 comments Add your comment

Adittohead

May 16th, 2009
10:25 am

Governor Sarah Palin is the conservatives’ answer to winning CONSERVATIVE votes…Ronald Reagan stood tall on the RIGHT & brought Democrats to his side with his convictions…Sarah Palin has to be tough as Nails, just like Hillary, & she will win…If the LEFT hates you..you are doing something RIGHT.

Adittohead

May 16th, 2009
10:32 am

Republicans who say move to the Left to gain more votes, only compromise conservative values..How many churches compromise on scripture to gain more converts….Example: Churches that go along with GAY..or same-sex marriages might as well shut their doors…It is no longer a House of God…It has gone secular.

hjay5

May 16th, 2009
10:32 am

Steele will be stripped of some authority and marginalized to the point of frustration where he will eventually resign. The party will gladly accept because they made a monumental mistake.

JM

May 16th, 2009
10:38 am

Did Steele get permission from Limbaugh to speak?? I doubt so, because I don’t believe Limbaugh (or Cheney) want to “open the tent”, after all that would mean they would have to accept people into the GOP that don’t agree with them 24/7 … people like Powell, McCain and other moderate Republicans.

vuduchld

May 16th, 2009
10:43 am

The audience Steele was talking to is a True reflection of the Republican party as it stands. The big tent is there already, kooks, nut jobs, ne’er-do-wells, racists and turds. I mean, all he has to do is look in the mirror because he fits the turds like a hand in glove.

When will you idiots realize that no one is listening to your bogus messages. When a dimwit like Karen Handel assails the voting rights act just who in the you think her audience is! You guessed it, the clowns Steele spoke to.

These people don’t want change, they want power to keep their boots on the necks of hard working Americans. I say flush this cabal and their “convictions” down the toilet!!

Happy Republican

May 16th, 2009
10:44 am

What, no more “my way or the highway”? No more ‘fear and smear’? Gotta listen to other ideas? No more ‘just say NO’? Steele asks too much! We gonna get rid of him and get a better leader. Maybe Rush or Beck? Nope, Palin is the one, “W” proved brains are not necessary to get elected. Yep, it’s Molly Moose Hunter all the way. I feel better already.

The Snark

May 16th, 2009
10:54 am

Bipartisanship is a lie. Right. And President Obama’s decision yesterday to appoint a Republican govorner to the incredibly important post of U. S. Ambassador to China is just a ploy to distract us.

Paul

May 16th, 2009
10:54 am

The advice given by “Adittohead” above is some of the best I’ve ever seen… for getting endless Democrats elected and shutting down the GOP forever. The Republicans have given so many gifts to the Dems that I’ve lost count… there is no room left underneath the Christmas tree!

Comparing Sarah Palin to Ronald Reagan is worse than any insult I’ve ever heard from a Democrat or anyone else. Ronald Reagan was a smart, communicative, grandfatherly, likable fellow who built coalitions and got Democrats to vote for him too.

Rick in Grayson

May 16th, 2009
11:07 am

Karen Handel is doing a great service by protecting the voting rights of US citizens from dilution by voters who are not US citizens!

We have millions of illegal aliens in this country that would like to influence US immigration policies by corrupting US elections. Karen Handel did the right thing by ensuring that only documented US citizens can vote. It’s the law! Open borders advocates would like illegal aliens to be voting in US elections, but name one other country that allows non-citizens to vote in their elections. Certainly not Mexico, where US citizens can’t even own real estate, they must lease their property.

I’m tired of US citizens having to provide benefits to illegal aliens. I’m tired of the children of illegal aliens crowding our schools, degrading the quality of our children’s educations and increasing the local tax burden on our communities.

US citizens are not obligated to support illegal aliens! At a time when so many US citizens need jobs to support their families, why are the Democrats supporting immigration policies that allow 140,000 new foreign workers into the US EACH MONTH!

Wilburn

May 16th, 2009
11:24 am

And in this section of the Museum: This’s what was left over from the Republican political party…They are just like the Dinosaurs of the past…Time has passed them by and don’t know what to do..Tsk.Tsk,it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving bunch.. You could start a 3 ring circus-you have the clowns in place already…And the whole world knows how funny you are…..

Josh

May 16th, 2009
11:24 am

Enjoy getting totally reamed in future elections, GOP!!!! Steele’s comments show he hasn’t got a clue, which puts him in good company (Palin, Boehner, Rick Perry, Gingrich, etc.).

In this country, you simply cannot win by being an ideologue. Elections are won (and lost) with moderates, and if you alienate them, you lose and lose and lose. Any glance at the history of electoral politics in this country will tell you that. So Steele is right in claiming that the GOP has to become more inclusive if they want to become relevant again, but he just doesn’t know how to go about it b/c his thinking is as outdated as those who canonize Reagan despite the fact that Reagan didn’t actually do that much. (Meanwhile, the GOP continues to demonize Clinton, who balanced the budget TWICE with a Democratic majority Congress–if Reagan had done that, they woulda renamed the White House after him!). You’ve let the idiots take over your party, and they’ve run you off the cliff.

I hope the GOP gets its act together, because this country needs AT LEAST two strong parties (and it’d be great if more parties could break the two-party stranglehold, but I digress). The issues we’re ALL facing require serious thought and dialogue, and a responsible and smart GOP would have much to bring to the table. But we can’t have a serious dialogue when the minority party’s leaders insist on sounding like petulant children who want to take their toys and go home. Liberals had to put up with eight years of the GOP ruining the country–the least the GOP could do is stick around, act like adults, and help the rest of us clean up their mess.

[...] You can see his remarks below. [...]

Dr.R

May 16th, 2009
12:00 pm

The GOP faces the choice of compromising on issues and looking like the “me, too” party without a soul, which both have done before, or continuing to hammer away at issues that the public doesn’t connect with. It’s the very definition of a minority party. But as we’ve seen before, it only takes one issue, or more importantly, one charismatic leader to turn it around. The Democrats were lost in the woods just a few years ago with no message and no spine. Then along comes The Chosen One with his talking tongue and they’re back on top. The sheep-like US voters will follow whomever is the latest political icon, be it a Reagan, Clinton or Obama. Someone new will capture the GOP’s fancy and change the equation. In the meantime, it remains the party of old white people who are afraid of technology, diversity and lifestyles that don’t fit into their “Father Knows Best” fantasy world. Good luck turning that around. It’s gonna take a new generation of conservatives with a different worldview, and that may be a few years away.

Bob

May 16th, 2009
12:01 pm

Steele is a crock. I trust the GA GOP’ers will have sense enough to sniff that. Chambliss was in a runoff because he blindly followed the wishes of George B in voting for the bailout. That’s the reason. If he hadn’t voted for the bailout, there would have been no runoff. Repubs need to either return to their principles or go get in the democratic tent where they can at least be honest. Steele, however, is a fraud.

Soulfinger

May 16th, 2009
12:03 pm

Paul, I couldn’t agree with you more. I remember John McLame using Sarah Palin to try to sway the voters. Now they think propping up a man of color is going to fool anyone. Please, keep it coming! Will make thier pending failure in 2012 even more fun to watch than last time! Ciao!!!!

A ditto head too

May 16th, 2009
12:04 pm

Example: Churches that go along with DIVORCE.. might as well shut their doors…It is no longer a House of God…It has gone secular.

JoJo Mineli

May 16th, 2009
12:11 pm

PALIN! JINDAL! LIMBAUGH! STEELE! CHENEY! GINGRICH! The Democrat’s best hope. The Republicans are going to have to run as Libertarians to get votes for the next 40 years if they are not more careful.

[...] Steele made opening the GOP to more voices a theme of his remarks, declaring that Republicans need to “be relevant” and “engage.” However, in that same address, Steele spoke out against same-sex marriage, saying that such spouses [...]

[...] Steele made opening the GOP to more voices a theme of his remarks, declaring that Republicans need to “be relevant” and “engage.” However, in that same address, Steele spoke out against same-sex marriage, saying that such spouses [...]

jc in acworth

May 16th, 2009
5:17 pm

JT

May 16th, 2009
5:42 pm

Speaking about a big tent all the while speaking out against a group of people isn’t exactly showing you get it. The GOP is on a collision course regarding gay civil rights in this country and are running the party into the ground. History will not be kind to Republicans and the party in years to come for having stood against a minority group whose time has finally come to be treated fairly under the law. Talk about fiscal policy, small government and stay our of American’s bedrooms and you might get it.

MH

May 17th, 2009
10:27 am

yes, “open up the tent”…but make sure you continue to demonize gay Americans, so you’ll still get the religous zealot vote.

Saying gay marriage will hurt small businesses is the most inane, half-wit argument I have heard in my lifetime.

Mr. Steele…I thought you were the party of tax breaks? If my partner and I marry, dont we get federal and state tax breaks, which allow us to save money, invest it, buy goods and services, pump more dollars into our local economy?

Arent we more likely to buy a house together? Buy cars together? Isnt the official joining of two incomes a GOOD thing?

And on a superficial level, how about the state having a few thousand extra weddings every year, which cost MONEY and mean revenue pumped into the local economy?

My partner and I would probably BE Republicans if you guys didnt bash us so you can win over people who spend their afternoons glued to AM talk radio, rather than being productive members of society.

I assure you, that as a high end interior designer I bring a lot more money directly into this economy, and provide a hell of a lot more work for local salespeople, laborers, and artisans than most straight married couples on my block.

Take my advice and EVOLVE. Join the 21st century.

TANSTAAFL

May 17th, 2009
11:49 am

It has been quite interesting to read the responses to Mr. Galloway’s coverage of the GOP convention down in Savannah this weekend. The references to ballot access issues in Georgia and the Libertarian Party’s success in the PSC and US Senate campaigns in 2008 are positive and indicate to me that the thirst for change in Georgia is unquenched.

Our state is encumbered with an entrenched two party system that is able to maintain their stranglehold on ballot access courtesy of a Jim Crow law passed in the 1943. For the last 66 years, the only voices allowed to compete in statewide elections in Georgia have been Democrats (Who passed the 1943 legislation) and Republicans (who have worked to maintain it). This has allowed the Republicans and their allies, the Democrats, to divide our state up into their individual fiefdoms so they can continue to do nothing, aside from seeking unchallenged re-election. In the 2008 cycle in Georgia, there were 180 seats up for election statewide. The Republicans did not challenge 61 Democratic incumbents and the Democrats did not challenge 82 Republican incumbents. Aside from the Libertarian efforts in 2 PSC races, 141 members of the two party system coasted to victory with no opposition. This is representative democracy? This is change?

The solution is obvious. Ballot access in Georgia must be reshaped, it has to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century. The draconian petition requirement for 5% of the registered voters in a district must be eliminated, the requirement for a paper petition must be replaced with an electronic version and the inclusion of “None of the Above” as a choice in any statewide race should be considered as well.

Until that happens, we Georgians with have to suffer from the business as usual syndrome at the State capitol. That means no transportation plan, no tax cuts, no Sunday alcohol sales, no improvement in education, no nothing except more of the same old same old.

How do we effect that level of change in Georgia? Concerned citizens could write their representatives, send letters to the editor, vent their collective spleens on various and sundry blogs etc. or, you can break this logjam by voting for Libertarian John Monds for Governor of Georgia in 535 days. Getting just 20% of the vote in the Governors race will put the Libertarian Party of Georgia on equal footing with the Republicans and Democrats, the petitioning requirement for statewide office will be tossed out the window and the days of unchallenged incumbents will be over. That would be monumental change, change that you can bring about by the simple act of voting. Monds for Governor in 2010!

[...] Steele made opening the GOP to more voices a theme of his remarks, declaring that Republicans need to “be relevant” and “engage.” However, in that same address, Steele spoke out against same-sex marriage, saying that such spouses [...]