Michael Steele was elected as the first African American Chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC) in January of 2009, shortly after President Obama became the first African American President of the United States. Many believed that Mr. Steele would be the Republicans’ answers to President Obama. Steele could attack the President without the criticism appearing racially motivated. Mr. Steele also promised that during his reign over the RNC he would make sure the Republican Party reached out to more ethnic minorities across the country.
But what happened under Mr. Steele’s leadership seemed to cause more division that unity.
The RNC lost a chunk of its base to the Tea Party. The Tea Party organizations from around the country ran candidates against not only incumbent Democrats but Republicans as well. The Tea Party members called Republicans out in many races and promised that once they got to Washington they were not only going to hold the President, but Democrats and Republicans, accountable to their vision of how they want the government to work.
Down South, Blacks had a word that described behavior unbecoming of the Black community: coonery. In many conservative circles, Michael Steele’s coonery was blamed for helping topple the RNC.
Nothing prepared Republicans for his antics and out-of-control foolishness. Not only was he an embarrassment to the old school Republicans, but many Black folks did not know what to make of Steele’s constant ignorant outbursts. His love of self-promotion made him a comedy routine regular on The Daily Show: a Muppet-like character was created to depict Steele using his street slang. His made-up homeboy sayings had even people from the streets scratching their heads, wondering what he was talking about.
Nothing from Steele’s background would have predicted how badly he would lead the RNC, or how his antics would be compared to a court jester whom no one took seriously.
Steele was adopted by a Democratic working class family as a baby. He lost his father at an early age but his mother later remarried and had a second child. His half-sister, Monica Turner, later married and divorced boxer Mike Tyson. Steele attended Catholic schools and even studied to become a priest. He graduated from John Hopkins University with a degree in International Studies and later received his law degree from Georgetown University Law School.