Michael Steele is a hip cat, you dig?

The new chair of the Republican National Committee is planning an "off the hook" PR campaign to bring the GOP to "urban-surburban hip-hop settings."

By Alex Koppelman

Published February 19, 2009 4:40PM (EST)

Michael Steele knows black people. In fact, he is himself a black person, something that wasn't lost on the GOP during his successful run for the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee. It certainly wasn't a subtle message in an interview he did with the Washington Times that was published Thursday, either, as Steele used the opportunity to promise an "off the hook" public relations effort that will bring the party's principles to "urban-suburban hip-hop settings." 


Steele also addressed his critics within the Republican Party, like Karl Rove, by saying, "People who said I can't make the trains run on time never gave a reason. I say to them, 'Stuff it.'" And when the Times asked him if his plans for the party, which he'd described as "avant garde" were "cutting edge," he replied, "I don't do 'cutting-edge.' That's what Democrats are doing. We're going beyond cutting-edge."

The RNC chair did have some less clichéd things to say, some of them correctly diagnosing his party's problems. Talking about recent Democratic victories, Steele said, "We need messengers to really capture that region -- young, Hispanic, black, a cross section... We want to convey that the modern-day GOP looks like the conservative party that stands on principles." Of course, right after that, he said the bit about "urban-suburban hip-hop settings," so take that with a grain of salt.

Another reason to view that attitude with some skepticism: Steele's first fundraising letter as head of the party, which didn't read much like "change" -- actually, it read very much like something sent out by the  GOP of the past decade.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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