Looking down on downtown Kansas City gives a perspective on the area that one doesn’t always get, I’d have to imagine. As a newfound friend of mine said about her native city, sometimes one just doesn’t understand the beauty or uniqueness of a view until you get a chance to look at it a little removed and from a new viewpoint.
I’d have to imagine that Republicans here in the Heartland of America this week are feeling the same way as they gather behind a wave of momentum and an overlooked set of accomplishments – and wins – under Michael Steele’s chairmanship so far. Granted, most people would probably say that advocating continued Michael Steele guidance for Republicans nowadays is a notion that lays somewhere between narrow-minded and not advisable. The RNC chairman seems to continue to endure a myriad of structural obstacles and media hiccups during the course of his January 2009 election, one that came on the heels of President Obama’s 2009 Inauguration. As such, the attention has been given on Steele in a way that achievements – and the potential for big wins in November – under his direction have been overlooked, some in part because traditional parameters have been incorrectly applied to his chairmanship in a very changing time politically in America.
What I reminded conservatives and Republicans alike just a few weeks ago is what Republicans are discussing behind closed doors this week in Kansas City during their summer meetings: that the election of President Obama and the direction of the country under the Democrats required a new type of chairman for the RNC in order to have a chance to build a long-term strategy for political relevancy and electoral success.
From the bird’s view of the GOP away from the pop politics of complaints about Tea Party racism and other distractions, there is actually a compelling set of items that the leadership gathered in Kansas City for the RNC Summer Meetings can rally around to prove that they are poised and positioned for big wins in roughly 90 days.
For example, Steele’s endeavors to build relationships with a broadened set of Republicans – grassroots activists that look like more of America – has been successful in a manner that finally begins to look differently than the delegate floor of the 2008 RNC Convention in Minnesota. Examples including the emergence of African-American Republicans in leadership as well as throughout the candidate base across the nation (with successful primary winners including Tim Scott (R-SC) and Stephen Broaden (R-TX)) highlight the opening door that Steele was voted into the chairmanship to provide.
Even with the uptick of visible African-American Republicans, 2010 may become a Republican watershed moment that will be labeled the “Year of the Republican Woman”, especially if Meg Whitman (R-CA), Nikki Haley (R-SC), Susana Martinez (R-NM), and Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ) all come out victorious the first Tuesday night in November. For a party that was noted to go “the party of the Whig Party” in December 2008 has roared back with the opportunity to show a bright face of building diversity for the future while potentially taking back a majority in a chamber within Congress. Winning in November may have occurred without Steele’s chairmanship because of the economy and gaffes by major Democrats, including President Obama. Building out for a future relevancy with new grassroots, women, and minority voters would not have –and this is something that Republicans will, at some point, need to admit to themselves if they are going to grasp the moment optimally.
This summer meeting may be just the place for the leadership to reflect on what is built out as the mechanisms for success in the fall. Despite the poor party branding that Steele and current Republican leadership inherited in 2009, the GOP has rebounded to raise money at a clip higher than what the Democrats were capable of doing against the unpopular President Bush during the mid-term elections of 2006, a time when the nation was not during what is now deemed “the Great Recession.” In just 4 years, the organization has increased its focus 5-some on political operations and other relationship-building initiatives that looks to re-engage the Republicans’ Washington establishment with the building frustration within the populist movement we see currently. The RNC’s presence in 44 states seems to follow the DNC’s 2006-2008 understanding that all states are in play, particularly during these economic times – times that present an opportunity to rebound from 2006 and 2008 electorally.
Just as sitting atop a hotel perch without the noise of the city streets below gives a different perspective of this town, so does a moment of pause and reflection for Republicans here in Kansas City to view how far they have come in the 20 months since Obama’s inauguration. From surprise victories in Virginia, New Jersey, Hawaii, and Massachusetts to enjoying a resurgence of conservatism at the grassroots level (which, although not part of the GOP officially, certainly helps the national party’s branding more than it hurts it), Republicans are clearly set up a lot better than they probably should be in August 2010, considering President Obama’s historic election and initial affability with the media, young voters, ethnic voters, and independent voters. All that changed – slowly but surely – with some persistence and resistance from the group meeting in Missouri this week. Not ironically, the Show-Me-State showed the nation that Republicans had it right last year with the universal opposition to Obamacare with its 3-to-1 rejecting it on Tuesday. More than anything, it shows that – as with other issues – the persistence of the RNC’s message is now leading to positioning for major victories in the fall that contrast the doom-and-gloom often heard concerning the GOP since the beginning of last year.
Sometimes, it just takes rising above the fray and the noise to get a clearer view – and, perhaps, the right perspective on optimizing November’s opportunities.
Lenny McAllister is a syndicated political commentator and the author of the book, “Diary of a Mad Black PYC (Proud Young Conservative,)” purchased online at www.tinyurl.com/lennysdiary and www.amazon.com. Catch Lenny on “Conservative Crosstalk Commentary featuring Lenny McAllister” every Saturday at 11:50 PM CST on www.650houston.com Houston. Follow him at www.twitter.com/lennyhhr and on Facebook at www.tinyurl.com/lennyfacebook .