BY ABDON M. PALLASCH Political Reporter
Why should an African-American vote Republican?
"You really don't have a reason to, to be honest -- we haven't done a very good job of really giving you one. True? True," Republican National Chairman Michael Steele told 200 DePaul University students Tuesday night.
Steele -- a former Maryland lieutenant governor and seminarian serving as the first African-American head of the Republican Party -- offered a frank assessment of the American political system.
A week after his Democratic counterpart, Tim Kaine, told 200 activists at an Ethiopian Restaurant four miles away that the Tea Party movement was causing a "civil war" in the GOP that could help Democrats in November, Steele said he is telling Republicans around the country to work with the Tea Party activists to elect Republicans this fall.
"I have advised our state chairs: Don't turn your nose up, or turn away those who are active in the Tea Party movement. Embrace them. Welcome them. Talk to them," Steele said. "Those activists have now become a very large part of our voting bloc. They represent a third or more of the voting age population, so they're going to have a profound impact on elections and in some cases in the primaries this November and this spring. Both parties had better pay attention."
Steele walked a tightrope on the hard-fought Florida Republican Senate primary election, noting, "In Florida, Marco Rubio has captured the imagination of the Tea Party there to the detriment of the governor, Gov. [Charlie] Crist, but from my perspective, Marco Rubio if he wins is a good candidate to run for the U.S. Senate. Should Gov. Crist win, he's a good candidate to run for the U.S. Senate. It's a win-win."
Steele towed the party line against the Democrats' Health Care plan. A student whose family had to move into smaller house after spending $250,000 on heart surgeries for the student asked Steele what he would do to bring down health costs. Steele said tort reform would help.
Steele seemed to hold the diverse student audience's attention most when he talked about his own experience suffering racial discrimination -- in his first law firm interview for example -- and when he confessed his party's failure to reach out to African-Americans:
"We have lost sight of the historic, integral link between the party and African-Americans," Steele said. "This party was co-founded by blacks, among them Frederick Douglass. The Republican Party had a hand in forming the NAACP, and yet we have mistreated that relationship. People don't walk away from parties, Their parties walk away from them.
"For the last 40-plus years we had a 'Southern Strategy' that alienated many minority voters by focusing on the white male vote in the South. Well, guess what happened in 1992, folks, 'Bubba' went back home to the Democratic Party and voted for Bill Clinton."
Steele did not address a recent controversy about the RNC paying $2,000 to entertain guests at a West Hollywood erotic bondage-theme club.http://www.suntimes.com/news/politics/2181538,african-american-vote-gop-steele-042110.articleBoy, this dude is pretty quick, after all this time, he's just coming to that realization?