In a recent post in the political blog of the New York Times, the new Chairman of the Republican National Committee was caught in a bit of an honest moment when asked about his position on abortion. It should be no surprise to any that the GOP is fervently anit-abortion. However, its new chairman appears to be confused about the party's stance. Mr Steele stated as much in his response to an interview with Lisa DePaulo of GQ. On abortion, Mr. Steele said that Roe v. Wade was “wrongly decided” and that states should decide the issue. But he also said that the issue was one of “individual choice” and that women had the "right to choose abortion."
Well, has everyone now taken notice? The GOP had to look hard for a new qualified chairman that would present a new face to the party. They found one. Steele has been hounded by accusations that he is not in charge and that the true ideological leader of the GOP was in fact the irascible politico, he who must not be named. Of course, Chairman Steele tried to clarify his position, which only made matters worse, causing future Republican Presidential nominees to chime in, such as Mike Huckabee: “For Chairman Steele to even infer that taking a life is totally left up to the individual is not only a reversal of Republican policy and principle, but it’s a violation of the most basic of human rights — the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Steele is going to have a hard time trying to reform the GOP with 19th century throwbacks like Mike Huckabee in positions of influence. What Steele has revealed though is the true nature of the abortion debate that most GOP members would admit privately but never publicly. The fact remains it is not a clear cut issue. There is much gray between the pro- and anti-choice forces. Steele would do well to expound upon his first statement to GQ. This would be a welcome change to the party and could bring in many new voters, namely working class women who tend to be a part of the gender gap that has been getting wider since 1980. But, not as long as the religious right has any part of the party structure, the GOP will be doomed to become the party of the ideological right.
Steele is in a difficult position. It appears that he is attempting to change the view of the GOP which could stand some change from the last 14 years. Its star is slowly sinking. Right now the GOP can be considered a regional party at the national level. In the 2008 elections to the House of Representatives, the last northeastern Republican House member, Christopher Shays of Connecticut, was defeated. Currently, there is not one Republican House member representing New England. Steele sees the need for a new image for the GOP, but those who are in other leadership positions want to hold on to those time honored values that they cannot appear to get a majority of Americans to agree to. Steele needs to present a new plan and act upon it or he will remain in the current position he finds himself, irrelevant. And that is not a good place for any party chairman and spokesman to be in.