Salon.com’s War Room chronicled a recent visit RNC Chairman Michael Steele made to the historically black college campus of Howard University and naturally, the result was not pretty. Blame it on Steele’s cluelessness. Blame it on the GOP’s largely failed minority outreach. Blame it on the rain, the stars or the silver moon. But whatever you do, Michael, don’t blame it on you. (Even though it is kinda of your fault since you are the chairman.)
From War Room:
Back in January, Michael Steele promised the Republican National Committee that he’d bring the GOP brand into places it hadn’t been seen in a while. On Tuesday night, the world finally learned what he meant.
“What’s up, Howard? How’s it goin’?” Steele asked, taking the podium at Howard University — one of the nation’s oldest, and most prestigious, historically black colleges — for a stop on what the RNC is calling his “Freedom Tour.”
Howard is, indeed, not the kind of place where the GOP has been particularly popular lately. The District of Columbia, after all, gave 92 percent of its votes to President Obama last fall, and around the country, black voters were even more supportive of the Democratic ticket. The visit didn’t exactly seem to stir the campus; in the student union building, the line to get into the cafeteria two floors below Steele’s speech was much longer than the line to get into the talk, and the first two rows were filled in, just before the program began, by about two dozen mostly white College Republicans from other D.C. universities. Questions for what was billed as a town hall meeting had to be submitted days in advance to the Howard chapter of the college GOP.
And it only got worse.
“I grew up on 8th Street, part of the 8th Street Crew,” he said, as if he was confessing to a long-ago gang affiliation. “My sister gave us that name; it was just the two of us.” Cue polite laughter.
And worse …
For most of the night, no matter how he tried, Steele couldn’t quite get the audience on his side. And he certainly did try. He constantly brought up Obama, asking the students if they would have ever thought “you would have two African Americans sitting atop the political class of this country.” In Steele’s mind, it seemed, being chairman of the RNC was more or less the same thing as being president. “It’s not just a political game,” he said of Washington’s policy battles. “It’s not just Barack Obama and Michael Steele going back and forth.”
In the end he only took two questions from the audience and made a break for it rather than face any serious discussion from the crowd. Students blasted his up with people inane chatter, arguing that they’re already in college, didn’t need the “You can do it too, Negroes” pep talk and would have appreciated actually hearing about the issues of the day. Instead students complained they were talked down to like kindergarteners.