- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 19, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The Republican Party has to “grow up.” That was the message conveyed yesterday by GOPAC Chairman Michael Steele in a meeting with editors and reporters at The Washington Times, as he runs for Republican National Committee chairman. The party is in disarray, he noted, and will have to decide soon what it will be going forward while not forgetting and maintaining its legacy of conservative principles built by Presidents Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Eisenhower and Reagan.

Not since Haley Barbour in the mid-‘90s has a Republican National Committee chairman had such a difficult task of rebuilding and redefining the party as a mandate of his candidacy, and the current atmosphere is much worse. “We have to decide if we are ready to roll up into a ball and whine and complain about who is and who is not conservative enough or pro-life enough, or are we ready to work,” said Mr. Steele, a former county and state GOP chairman and lieutenant governor in Maryland.

As chairman of the Maryland Republican Party, Mr. Steele worked on behalf of the most liberal member of the party, former Rep. Connie Morella, and the most conservative, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett. While many Republicans wanted Mrs. Morella out, and they got their wish, Mr. Steele said that was a mistake. “I bet they are wishing we still had her now because we had two members in the delegation and now we are down to one,” he said, highlighting the fact that the party has to realize that there are constituencies in the body politic that have no interest in conservative litmus tests based on same-sex marriage and abortion.

His message and mission is one of inclusion that would build on strategies to expand the party’s base of blacks, Hispanics, conservatives and moderates, and the grass-roots work started by former Chairmen Ed Gillespie and Ken Mehlman. Mr. Steele rightly called these men “the most important chairmanships for the party in recent times.” “We have to get out of the outreach being cocktail parties mind set,” he said.

As other Republicans have done, Mr. Steele showed admiration for Mr. Obama’s grass-roots ground game and his use of the Internet to reach and mobilize young people to the polls. Going forward, the Republican Party should not emulate Mr. Obama’s strategy, but “improve on it,” he said. The RNC will vote for chairman in January.

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