Former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele is in Tampa for his party’s national convention this week, even though he wasn’t officially invited to take part in the festivities.
Steele said in an interview that leaders of the Republican Party have done very little in terms of racial and ethnic inclusion, and even though he was a successful party chairman who selected Tampa as the convention site, people within the GOP worked to see him fail. Nonetheless, he still believes the Grand Old Party can be a political home for people of color.
Have you been welcomed to anything here?
Well not necessarily. No.
How do you feel?
It is what it is. People are people, they do what they think they need to do. I can’t worry about that. I know what I did to get the party back on its feet and moving in the right direction despite obstacles placed in front of me by members of my own party. That’s okay. I get that. But the reality is: I tasked to raise money and win elections, and that is what we did.
Has the party grown in terms of inclusion?
No they have not; we have a lot of work to do.
What is the main impediment to growth? Why aren’t there more minorities [in the party]?
I can’t tell you. I don’t know. You have to make the effort. You have to be engaged.
Do you think that Romney gets it?
I think that they do. My hope is that they demonstrate how much they get it; how much they understand it. The question is: What are they willing to do communicate their message to a cross section of people? It is going to take work.
Are there any blacks within the establishment in terms of leadership in the RNC?
We have two lieutenant governors; you have a number of state legislators. In terms of national leadership, that is what you’ve got.
How do sell a party that over the years — but for you or Condoleezza Rice — we just don’t see a lot of minorities. How do you say: Hey, this is a party that you want to be part of.
It is not just about someone’s skin color. It is about what else can we do to bring people together. It is not just saying we need to meet some quota: We demonstrate that we are pro-black by having blacks. That is a start. Beyond that you want to make a broad case that is expansive and respectful of America’s great diversity and that we welcome everybody to join us because we think politically this is a good home for them.
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