Michael Steele: Everything's coming up GOP

The RNC chairman says that the GOP is speaking with one, sane voice again, and America is listening

Published November 4, 2009 5:45PM (EST)

Almost immediately after Michael Steele got his job as chairman of the Republican National Committee, speculation started up about how long he’d last. So the guy’s got to be feeling pretty good today, after running the RNC through its first significant elections and, to say the least, not falling on his face.

In his press conference today, Steele was happy to talk about how yesterday’s elections ratified 10 months of GOP opposition to the president.

As recently as a couple of months ago, Republicans were written off. Many of you were writing our epitaph and reminiscing of the good old days, whatever they happen to have been. But the real heroes last night, the real heroes who brought home the victory are the Republicans and independents and, yes, even Democrats who spoke up against an incredibly arrogant government in Washington that has put our country, our freedoms and our economy at risk with unprecedented spending.

So, we know what Steele thinks: New Jersey and Virginia went for Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell, respectively, because the Obama administration is spending too much money. This is pretty much the standard GOP establishment line on the Tea Parties and Glenn Beck, rewritten to apply to yesterday’s elections. The basic idea is that the outrage of the right-wing fringe represents a broad popular reaction against the president’s policies -- if not, as Steele specifies, the president himself.

As Mike Madden wrote last night, off-year elections sometimes tell us a lot more about whose base is amped up and angry than about what the country as a whole actually thinks. But it seems pretty clear that, despite Steele, not a lot of folks voted for Christie, or even Doug Hoffman -- the third-party candidate in the race for a congressional seat in upstate New York -- as a way of endorsing House Minority Leader John Boehner and Senate counterpart Mitch McConnell over President Obama. Steele may think there's just one Republican Party and he's in charge, but voters are perfectly capable of voting for their local GOP candidate without signing on for the whole hog.

Of course, it’s part of a party leader’s job to pretend that everyone’s getting along just fine. But it’s worth remembering that Steele is pretending. That’s why he brushed off the debate over what the big Democratic bright spot of the night -- the win in New York's 23rd Congressional district -- means for the GOP.

In doing so, though, he did say one thing that's contrary to the message emerging from his erstwhile allies to the right: "I don't see a victory in losing seats." That's not the way they see it, and that may cause Steele some headaches as he and his party gear up for next year's midterm elections.

By Gabriel Winant

Gabriel Winant is a graduate student in American history at Yale.

MORE FROM Gabriel Winant

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

2009 Elections Chris Christie Michael Steele New Jersey Virginia War Room