Michael Steele & the Republican "big tent"

The Hotline On Call this morning reports a “Draft Michael Steele” effort to elevate the former Maryland lt. governor to the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee. The online petition is being pushed by Steele friend Tony Marsh and his consulting firm, Marsh Copsey + Associates:

To rebuild the Republican Party, we need to broaden our outreach to new audiences with messages of conservative principles and values. Ronald Reagan won because he was able to bring a broad coalition of interests together under a ‘big tent.’

Michael Steele is the kind of leader that will rekindle Ronald Reagan’s legacy and translate it to the current political landscape. As RNC Chairman he will focus on what unites us, not on what divides us.

Michael Steele has the vision and the experience to lead the Republican Party in the 21st century. Michael Steele is a true Conservative who has served the GOP with distinction as a former State Party Chairman, as Lieutenant Governor of Maryland, as a Senatorial Candidate and as current GOPAC Chairman. An artful public speaker, Mr. Steele can articulate our vision to the American people and inspire Republicans everywhere.

He will make being a Republican a source of pride once again.

It is “rebuild” rather than “tear down and start over.” This is an important distinction.

Governor Ronald Reagan gave a partisan speech to the California Republican Assembly at the Lafayette Hotel in Long Beach on April 1, 1967. He said, in part:

We discovered we could no longer afford the luxury of internal fighting, backbiting and throat-cutting. We discovered our philosophical difference with those presently in power was greater than any grudge or split within our own ranks. Were ready and in position to offer an alternative for those concerned citizens who wanted to join with others, not to win a contest, but to preserve a way of life.

We must keep the door open – offering our party as the only practical answer for those who, overall, are individualists. And because this is the great common denominator – this dedication to the belief in man’s aspirations as an individual – we cannot offer them a narrow sectarian party in which all must swear allegiance to prescribed commandments.

Such a party can be highly disciplined, but it does not win elections. This kind of party soon disappears in a blaze of glorious defeat, and it never puts into practice its basic tenets, no matter how noble they may be.

The Republican Party, both in this state and nationally, is a broad party. There is room in our tent for many views; indeed, the divergence of views is one of our strengths.

Indeed. But Governor Reagan cautioned/reassured his partisan audience:

Let no one, however, interpret this to mean compromise of basic philosophy or that we will be all things to all people for political expediency.

In our tent will be found those who believe that government was created by “We, the People;” that government exists for the convenience of the people and we can give to government no power we do not possess as individuals; that the citizen does not earn to support the government, but supports a government so that he may be free to earn; that, because there can be no freedom without law and order, every act of government must be approved if it makes freedom more secure and disapproved if it offers security instead of freedom.

Within our tent, there will be many arguments and divisions over approach and method and even those we choose to implement our philosophy. Seldom, if ever, will we raise a cheer signifying unanimous approval of the decisions reached. But if our philosophy is to prevail, we must at least pledge unified support of the ultimate decision. Unity does not require unanimity of thought.

And here is the challenge to you. It is the duty and responsibility of the volunteer Republican organizations, not to further divide, but to lead the way to unity. It is not your duty, responsibility of privilege to tear down, or attempt to destroy, others in the tent. As duly chartered Republican organizations, we can all advance our particular sectarianism or brand of candidates for the party to pass on openly and freely in a primary election.

I can add only that there are those who, through their words and/or actions, have left this tent.

The next RNC chairman should have the then-governor’s words in mind, along with the realization that the governor who so uttered went on to become President of the United States. The words are proven instructions for electoral success.

Is Michael Steele the man to bring the party back to this sound philosophy? If we want the GOP back, we have to stop simpering and navel-gazing and get on with it.

Again, here’s the petition if you agree with Ronald Reagan and you think Mike Steele is the man to guide the party apparatus through this dramatic redefinition back to an ideal which worked.