Michael Steele's Candor Would Have Been More Useful 16 Months Ago
On the latest episode of The Axe Files with David Axelrod, Michael Steele called birtherism "bulls--t racism." That wasn't the only drop-the-mic comment. Steele went on to say that even Ronald Reagan wouldn't be elected by the Republican Party of today. Boom.
In the interview, Steele, who served as the chairman of the Republican National Committee between 2009 and 2011 claimed that given the current division in the Republican Party — most clearly manifested in the rise of Donald Trump's far-right politics — even Reagan's policies and approaches would be too liberal for much of the GOP's base. In the full podcast interview, which can be heard on the CNN website, Steele expressed his convictions about the current state of the Republican Party:
Ronald Reagan, if he were a candidate running for any office today, would not win a Republican primary. Because the things that he would espouse, the policies, the values, the principles that he would lay out there, would be rejected.
Steele continued his train of thought by claiming that some of Reagan's immigration policies (which included amnesty for millions of undocumented immigrants) would be considered too liberal for many Republicans who fall under the alt-right element of the pro-Trump umbrella.
Steele also claimed that with Trump as the focal point, the GOP has been sidelined with "nonsensical issues," most specifically the birther movement's focus on Obama, about which Steele didn't mince his words. He did not fail to call it out as "racist bulls--t."
While the interview naturally maintained its focus on Trump's presidential campaign and how it reflects the growing tension between more moderate Republicans and the growing alt-right, Steele also remarked that the Democrat Party is experiencing a similar splintering tension between Bernie Sanders supporters and Hillary Clinton supporters:
The last time I checked, Bernie Sanders was not going away. His millennial voters are pissed. They have transformed the party internally, operationally, through its (policy) platform. That is not Hillary Clinton's platform.
This isn't the first time Steele has commented on a splintering two-party system amidst political unrest. Back in March during an interview with the Libertarian Kurt Wallace, Steele claimed that the fracturing Republican party and rise of Trump is a "symptom of post-Reaganism." Specifically, Steele said:
Trump is more of a reflection of the underlying symptoms that have been ailing the party since Reagan left office. We have been in the post-Reagan era for a while, sort of wandering, trying to figure out what does an updated 21st century brand of conservatism look like, still being anchored and moored to the values and principles articulated by Ronald Reagan. How do we then translate that in these times?
As Steele noted, these big questions have led to a revolt of sorts from the base:
Now, you have this moment where the base is saying, "We got this. We’re going to push back against the lies and the betrayal of the establishment. We’re going to use a Donald Trump candidacy, who is a very authentic, raw, in-your-face kind of guy as the way to do that."
Of course, as I listen to Steele's candor (to put it mildly) about the current state of the Republican Party, I can't help but be impressed by how refreshing it is. Moreover, if other elder statesmen like him spoke this honestly and sooner in the election, perhaps the GOP wouldn't be in a place where their beloved Reagan couldn't even hack it.