February 4th, 2009
12:51 PM ET

A loyal Republican laments her party's backsliding on diversity

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/01/30/rnc.chairman/art.michaelsteelemd.gi.jpg caption="Michael Steele was chosen Friday as the first African-American leader of the Republican Party."]

Sophia A. Nelson
The Root

I’ve been a Republican for a long time, more than two decades, and I have always been concerned about the poor relationship between the GOP and black voters. But I must admit that I had no idea things had gotten so bad for the Grand Old Party in terms of dwindling black participation.

Last Thursday at the Republican National Committee winter meeting in Washington, I could count on one hand the number of blacks present. The representation among black women in the room was even more dismal.

On Friday, that number increased modestly, to about 20, as it became apparent that Michael Steele would be elected RNC chairman, making him the first African American to head the party.


soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. Brenda

    Yes, Mr. Steele appears to be an intelligent and hard working individual; congratulations on his accomplishments and his new position. However, his appointment is the Republicans display of affirmative action in 2009. Every since, Mr. Steele became the leader of the Republican party, there have been remarks from members of this party indicating he was elected to attract the black vote in future elections. He needs to be treated as a fellow Republican and not a leverage to pull in votes from blacks or an object to antagonize the new President. I hope that Mr. Steele will use his intelligence and beliefs to appeal to all Americans in hopes of promoting positive improvements for all. If this is a legitimate move in the right direction, Mr. Steeles disposition will aid in encouraging Mr. Dobbs and Mr. Limbaugh now that they are practicing tolerance and understanding of others. The changes that they are working toward, is what America, "the Great Melting Pot" is all about.

    February 5, 2009 at 1:45 pm |
  2. Baze

    How is this a surprise? The G.O.P. has become so narrow minded and polarized that they clearly only speak for a regional portion of this country. In fact, it doesn't even seem like Republicans want to be a part of American anymore. They should battle the Russians for occupation of the caucaus mountains where they can be free to live their bigotted anti-social ways for eternity.

    February 5, 2009 at 12:33 pm |
  3. Thomas, NM

    Resounding support for the comments by, Kent & Annie Kate. Trickle down economics does not work as evidenced by the Wall Street fiasco. Rush Linbaugh – Ha – call him FLUSH – Limbaugh as in "he stinks"....and he is guiding the GOP – talk about a CULT leader. YIKES! isn't he the Junkie! ...The GOP needs to get real, come down to earth and feel the pain of the working class, the poor, the hungry, the homeless, and now most of all the JOBLESS, who will become the above because of their greed and trickle down economic policies. I am so enthused that America has finally awoken to the realities of the GOP and all of their failing policies....

    February 5, 2009 at 11:18 am |
  4. Leo


    You win my vote for most Intelligent observer 2 nite.

    Mike was ahead followed by Annie Kate and then Kent
    you, my friend, have blown it all up.

    You are Numero Uno!

    Had the Republicans run Condi & Guliani or Powell & McCain things would have turned out a little differently. At least the GOP would not have been slaughtered after 6 hours of voting!

    My people (English, Irish, German, Polish) married into (Greek, Italian, Mexican etc) were Strong Democrats since 1900 but changed after JFK was Assasinated. Dem 90% and Rep 10%.

    My father came home one day, a few years later, almost in tears stating that he now had to vote for a ........Republican.
    He was a Union guy. Hated republicans, rich people, and big business but he said to us:

    #1 We do NOT Kill our Babies aka Abortion!
    #2 We do NOT Sleep with the same sex aka Homosexuals!

    Now, 95% of our family is Republican/Independent vs 5% Democrat.

    The 3rd Issue that now confronts us is Illegal Aliens aka Criminals for breaking into America. This Invasion could, one day, destroy all that we have worked and died for.

    I support folks like Ron Paul, Tom Tancredo, Alan Keyes, Duncan Hunter, Ted Hayes, Walter Moore, Barb Coe, Lupe Moreno, Rosie Avila, and many other Patriots across America who love this great nation.

    This is Your country, stand up for it, defend it, fight for it.

    GOD Bless America!

    Semper Fidelis

    Ps......Happy Birthday to me..........57 years ago this hour I was born in Rockford Illinois with "The Stain" of being a Rascist once I dropped from my Mother's womb but Barry Hussein Obama has set me Free!

    Praise Jesus!

    February 5, 2009 at 5:29 am |
  5. Leo

    Dear Lucky Lady

    I turn 57 today and I still am not familiar with "those codes" that White Folks use etc!

    Please, let me in on a few of them so my Brothers & Sisters won't know how dumb this white boy is after all these years.

    Us Honky's from Rockford Illinois are pretty slow.

    I guess that is why I left my house, my car, Power of Attorney and all that I possessed to include custody of my Son, to my best friend Claude, who just happened to be Black, when I was called @ 3am due to the Iranians taking hostages in Tehran.

    I was an E-6 with 1stMarDiv G-2 @ Camp Pendleton.

    I was gone for some time, not knowing when I might return, but knowing that my son was in great hands.
    Not the hands of a "Black Man" but my friend, Cpl Payton....USMC!

    Do not judge a person by their skin but by the content of their Character.................I am shocked that only White Folks get that!

    Semper Fidelis

    Ps.....Ooops, Alan Keyes, Benjamin Carson, Terry Anderson, and Bill Cosby get it.

    February 5, 2009 at 4:58 am |
  6. J.V.Hodgson

    Sophia, I share your hope for the GOP, (or should I say "dream" a la MLK who fought and died eventually and regretably for his "dream") for much longer than say a double term by BHO, our current president.
    The resurrection of the GOP lies in recognising what the founding fathers knew which was that the good ole USA was multi religious and diverse in many ways which has been key to the enormous success and power of the US Nation.
    If the GOP continues under Steele to be Ideological ( tax cuts, tax cuts for the better off mainly) and focuses on the GOP's historic strength and influence of the "wide ranging christian, biblical morality" and Jewish well off community. Then the GOP has a very limited future as globaliasation and the growing influence internationally of Islamics and Hispanics, ( and plus via the so called BRICS) Brazil, Russia India, China and South America, of continuing to be a major political or economic power in the years ahead.
    The GOP is so hung up on the literal words of the constituiton, bill of rights... the problem is the people mix domestically and internationally has changed and the GOP does not think so.
    Being a democratically minded but probably truthfully an independent voter, I hope the GOP puts Palin up for President in 2012.
    Why, because democrats and independents will thrash the hell out of the GOP and they will need more than Steele and a few token (Coloured, blacks) in the GOP to make them a realistic opposition, which the GOP is not at present.

    February 5, 2009 at 4:09 am |
  7. Linda Cooks

    What is this left,right center,conservitive ,you have wronge doers in all of them,you cant pass laws,vote in morals,the republicans use this on so call christians when they want votes,an old trick used by bushes old crook carl rove,,it worked cause so call christian didnt know the word of god who they say they are standing up for,no where in the bible do you see where god called us evangelicals,where did this come from?you were suckered then,but thank god carl it didnt work for mccain,you know he tryed to get him to us it,but mccain went for the women vote and choose palin,I dont have anything against her,but she was blind sided,used,abused and if shes smart next time the republicans wants a token,tell them to go bite a moose.

    February 5, 2009 at 4:05 am |
  8. Linda Cooks

    It appears to be an old republican trick,get sarah palin if you want the women vote,now lets get a black man to get the black vote,after this last republican convention even though there were a few blacks,it didnt stop the black haters from yelling "kill him",it didnt stop them from carrying their monkeys and ropes,that showed me what they really throught about blacks.Mr Steele I hope you know your history,turn a slave on a slave,now turn a black on black,if they didnt want the black vote you wouldnt even be heard of,less known be over their party,thats all theyre thinking about how to get the republican party back on top. What about getting America and her people back on top together as one people one nation?

    February 5, 2009 at 3:44 am |
  9. Leo

    I walked with Dr. King in the 60's (Chicago) and he would be appalled by his Brothers & Sisters voting for a man based on the color of his skin and not the content of his character.

    Vote for a "Platform" that conforms to your belief system and not a person or ethnic group. I will Always vote for that person that best represents me and this time it was not my party's candidate, US Senator Juan Judas McAmnesty but a preacher from Florida, Chuck Baldwin.

    MLK would NOT have supported either Abortion on Demand or the teaching of Homosexualality as a "Normal" lifestyle.

    I ran for city council but no Blacks stepped forward to do the same. Why?

    I ran for school board and once again no Blacks stepped forward to do the same.

    How can you scream that life is not fair if you do not try?

    How can you hold someone back that refuses to step forward?

    Stop blaming the White Man! The "White Man" in Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio etc..................gave the White House to a Democrat that just happened to be black & not even a US Citizen to boot..

    Bill Cosby says it best when he speaks the Truth to Black folks. He is brutally honest and truthful about the "race card" being thrown down every time a person of color does not get his or her way.

    The Last Race Card has been thrown.....so now, what will the non- white person do when they do not succeed?
    Who can they now blame?

    The best candidate for President? A Black man? Yes!

    His name is Benjamin Carson. He is a Dr. @ John Hopkins.
    Hell, Alan Keyes is twice the Orator and Statesman that Barack Obama is and he stands for all that is Good & Right in this great country.

    Stimulus package?
    What about those foreclosures? What about helping folks over 60 who really need the help as they will not easily get a job in todays economy.

    16 Billion dollars would have helped "Everyone" over 40 with regards to their home loans/mortgages.
    This would not have been the first bailout in US history but the 2nd or 3rd if you go back to 1929 until today.

    Why are the "Fat Cats" both Rep & Dem making off with Our money?

    What about America sending 10% of jobs overseas?
    What about America giving 10% of top jobs to H-1 Visa winners?
    What about America allowing Permanent Resident Aliens to work in City, County, State, AND Federal high paying jobs that Americans would love to have?
    What about America not letting US Citizens work in Federal government after they turn 39 but hire young Alien workers?

    This is just the tip of the iceberg.
    I know, I file Unemployment Insurance in California.

    The Social Services infrastructure in California, Arizona & Texas are being sucked dry by Illegal Aliens flooding over our Southern borders by the thousands.

    Our schools are overcrowded and our emergency rooms have to close because there is no one to pay the medical bills except American home owners aka taxpayers.

    If all Illegal Aliens were to vanish into thin air and take their "Anchor Babies" with them there would be a job for Every America......Today!

    GOD Bless America!

    Semper Fidelis
    1970-1981 United States Marine Corps
    2001-2004 California Army National Guard

    Ps...Kent, there is such a party: The Constitution Party led by Chuck Baldwin. Ron Paul and Tom Tancredo backed Mr. Baldwin in this last election. Go Cubs!

    February 5, 2009 at 3:01 am |
  10. Elizabeth

    Great way for the Republican Party to rise above the rest in year 2012, "Joe" the plumber who apparently wants to get into polictics running for Vice President alongside Sarah Palin for President.
    After all they were both heavily endorsed not only by McCain but a whole slew of Republicans including those guests on CNN.

    February 5, 2009 at 1:26 am |
  11. Judith

    Well the GOPs are up to something.Steele wasn't re-elected so now he's with the group of the big guys.Before Bush got out of office Karl Rove and Cheney were supporting Steele and anyone that has any dealings with Rove and Cheney look out.

    February 5, 2009 at 12:17 am |
  12. Matt

    LUCKYLADY-the codes used by whites? Hold on let me look in my white peoples code book..........here it is in chapter two section nine.....it says that people like you like to look for a fight and create meanings out of nothing. OOPS-I said people like you so I must be racist also! You are keeping the spirit of bigotry alive and well.

    February 4, 2009 at 11:50 pm |
  13. Lovely

    The party neglects to include the various classes of people that make up the population and their diverse in financial capabilities and the economic and social effects when ignored.

    February 4, 2009 at 11:24 pm |
  14. aliou

    Mr. Steele is a fine young man and some blacks need to go to the RNC. But in the voting boots, they need to know which party is working on their behalf. After all, they are alone.

    The reality is that whites should do that too. 1% of americans are rich. That 1% include a few latinos, blacks and a lot of whites.The republican party caters for the interests of that 1%.

    The rest of the 59% of Americans who are whites are not counted when the interest fo the rich is concerned.

    These whites only benefit when the Democratic party takes care of the interest of rest of the 99% Americans who are not rich.

    Yet they keep being sucked in by the republicans' promise to make them rich by giving tax break to the rich.

    Well, we all see how they did it recently: They paid themselves large bonuses, parties and jets, with the welfare money we gave them to .... stimulate the economy, lend to us and create jobs.

    If the govenrment gave each of us only $10000, this country would have been on its way to recovery because many of us would have come together to create our own business.

    Yet republicans are still asking for more bail out to some rich groups, including .... homeowners.

    Le t me know how the bailing out the banks who own the mortgages (and homes in reality), would create jobs?

    If you don't have a job, giving money to your bank may keep you in your house, but will it keep paying your mortgage for you ? will it give you the job you need to pay your bills? What are you going to pay your light and water bill with?

    All americans should understand that each time dems put a plan out there, they are taking care of the small man among us. And no matter how rich we are, you never know when you will become one really small man/woman. Beware of Republican tricks.

    February 4, 2009 at 11:20 pm |
  15. AlexCalifornia

    Has everyone noticed how ridiculous it looks for African American to be criticizing President Obama? This is how ridiculous it now looks to have Michael Steele as RNC chairman. Why? We all know that the republican party is dominated by white angry men who want to keep it that way!

    February 4, 2009 at 11:00 pm |
  16. Angela

    Mr Steele,
    You are being used. The Republicans want the African American vote.....it will never happen!!!

    February 4, 2009 at 10:43 pm |
  17. clarissa

    A black face does not change the racist image of the republican party!!!And M. Steele is no B Obama.People its not the color its the policies!!!

    February 4, 2009 at 10:41 pm |
  18. Terry

    Mr. Steele is a fine man....he has worked hard and didn't get handed anything....there were six rounds of voting. He deserves respect...he has done nothing to anyone blogging. The reason there are small number of African Americans is because 92% of the African American population voted for an African American president. ...who is a fine man also. Had the democrat party had a different color running there would have been more African Americans in both parties....as in the past. Duh!

    February 4, 2009 at 10:25 pm |
  19. Karen

    What a JOKE Steele is. The RNC's a day late and a dollar short. If they think that he will bring in minorities into the Republican Party. It's their policies and 19 century ideas that's keeping them away. This idea of give all of the taxes breaks to big business and the rich and somehow it will find it way down to the middle and working class. We have been waiting and it has not gotten here yet!

    February 4, 2009 at 10:01 pm |
  20. Tywon in Minn

    The problem with Micheal Steele is that most black people can not relate to him or his politics. In my opinion he is not one of us and will do very little to pull minorities to the GOP. It's as if they have just appointed Clayton Bigsby as RNC Chairman.

    February 4, 2009 at 8:23 pm |
  21. Kent, Illinois

    If you think they picked Steele as a ploy you are correct. I agree with Maddow.........because of Hillary the GOP picked Palin.....because of Obama the GOP now has picked Steele. GOP, if you want to lead you cannot contiue to follow........you have to have good ideas of you OWN. The Republican Party is just plain ridiculous.......Lol they follow Rush of all people.......how lost are you people anyway?

    February 4, 2009 at 8:16 pm |
  22. Kent, Illinois

    Amen, Annie Kate............

    Don't the Republicans understand that we see them for what they really are......not what they show us? Steele will have no effect while Obama is President. And none whatsoever afterwards if their Party doesn't morph into something else....yuk! I'm not a Dem or Republican. Honestly, we need a new Party system. There needs to be a strong Party in the center........not just both parties pretending and pandering to the center.

    February 4, 2009 at 8:09 pm |
  23. Mike in NYC

    Honestly, there's at least as much racial animus among blue-collar urban and suburban White Democrats as there is among the GOP's traditional base. This comes from a high level of racial tension in Democrat strongholds, where racial groups live in relatively close proximity. This is why BO did better in the primaries in western red states than he did in the NY, NJ, MA, PA or OH primaries.

    I never fail to be amused by liberal obtuseness and self-congratulation on this issue. Republicans tread very carefully on the issue of race, and most would rather lose an arm than be seen as racist. Check out the reaction to Steele's elevation to party chairman on any number of GOP-oriented message boards and fora. Sheer relief! “Now THEY can’t use that issue against us!” Of course, this POV is obtuse in its own way, because it insists on playing the “tolerance” game. The GOP will never be able to win this without becoming an effective clone of the Democrats. They’ll never be able to out-"anti-racist" the Dems.

    February 4, 2009 at 6:43 pm |
  24. Annie Kate

    The GOP needs to get over its favoritism of big business and stand for the people if it wants to grow. Why should anyone want to be in the GOP unless they are rich or own a big company? That seems to be the focus of the party and most of us just aren't that so we go where we are represented – the Democratic party.

    February 4, 2009 at 6:09 pm |
  25. Mary V., Salt Lake City, UT

    The Republican party chose Mr. Steele as a way to win votes. Let us not forget they are first and foremost politicians!

    Just like McCain chose Palin, in an attempt to win over unhappy Hillary supporters.

    Republicans are SO out of touch with reality, that they will say and do anything to win an election.

    They STILL do not get that America rejected their vile politics of...... hate.....lies....... fear and division!

    And here was Cheney again........ spewing fear! They never learn!

    February 4, 2009 at 5:57 pm |
  26. LuckyLady

    Why would a black person want to be a part of the Republican party when racists such as Sarah Palin make comments like "he's not like us", as she did in her regards to President Obama? Blacks are well aware of the "codes" used by whites. It's going to take much more than one "token" black to sway us black voters. What Republican's fail to realize is that blacks are very conservative in their thinking. Here's a clue for you Republicans. Prop 8.

    February 4, 2009 at 4:22 pm |
  27. Mike in NYC

    Most blacks believe in big government. From their point of view, it makes sense, since government action has benefited them greatly, going back to Reconstruction. That's why there aren't many in the GOP, whatever one may think of that party's consistency in adhering to its core values.

    GOP "diversification" will of necessity move the party to the left. As that happens, its historical base of white, conservative voters will need to make a choice - maintain party loyalty, even as the GOP “adjusts” to new demographic realities, or leave and form a new party.

    February 4, 2009 at 3:36 pm |
  28. Mike in NYC

    Most blacks believe in big government. From their point of view, it makes sense, since government action has benefited them greatly, going back to Reconstruction. That's why there aren't many in the GOP, whatever one may think of that party's consistency in adhering to its core values.

    GOP "diversification" will of necessity move the party to the left. As that happens, its historical base of white, conservative voters will need to make a choice - maintain party loyalty, even as the GOP “adjusts” to new demographic realities, or leave and form a new party.

    February 4, 2009 at 3:36 pm |
  29. Jay

    Although taking notice of the dearth of black members of the Republican Party is a good first step, the GOP has a long way to go to honestly recognize and embrace the diversity that is the United States of America.

    What about taking to heart the needs of other racial groups? An even bigger challenge for the Republicans is embracing diversity along lines other than racial. Until the GOP honestly welcomes people from all religious backgrounds (including atheists and Muslims) and all sexual orientations, the Republican Party will continue to become increasingly marginalized in American politics.

    The strength of this country lies in making the most of every citizen's potential. Until the Republican Party once and for all drops their platform of campaigning on divisive social issues, they will have no moral standing from which to lead.

    February 4, 2009 at 2:43 pm |