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Context of 'February 19, 2009: New Republican Chairman Has Plan to Market Party in More ‘Hip-Hop’ Fashion to Appeal to Younger, Minority Voters'

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Michael Steele.Michael Steele. [Source: Washington Times]Michael Steele, the newly elected chairman of the Republican National Committee and one of the few African-American Republicans in public office, says after the 2008 election losses suffered by his party he intends to “rebrand” the Republican Party in a more “hip-hop,” “off the hook” manner to attract minority and younger voters. The party’s principles and stances will not change, he says, but they will be marketed to appeal to “urban-suburban hip-hop settings.” Steele says he will “surprise everyone” with his new public relations initiative, and with his use of 21st-century technology, particularly Internet-based public outreach methods such as Twitter and Facebook. To those who say he is not up for the job, Steele retorts, “Stuff it.” He worries that the Republican Party has become too regionalized. “There was underlying concerns we had become too regionalized and the party needed to reach beyond our comfort” zones, he says, citing election defeats in such states as Virginia and North Carolina. “We need messengers to really capture that region—young, Hispanic, black, a cross section.… We want to convey that the modern-day GOP looks like the conservative party that stands on principles. But we want to apply them to urban-surburban hip-hop settings.… [W]e need to uptick our image with everyone, including one-armed midgets.… Where we have fallen down in delivering a message is in having something to say, particularly to young people and moms of all shapes—soccer moms, hockey moms.” However, he says, “[w]e don’t offer one image for 18-year-olds and another for soccer moms but one that shows who we are for the 21st century.” [Washington Times, 2/19/2009] Steele, the former lieutenant governor of Maryland, lost a race for the US Senate in 2006, where many observers noted that he never mentioned his party affiliation in any of his advertisements. [FactCheck (.org), 10/4/2006]

Entity Tags: Republican National Committee, Michael Steele

Timeline Tags: 2008 Elections

Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele, guest-hosting William Bennett’s radio show, says that Republicans should not attack Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor (see May 26, 2009) over her race (see May 26, 2009, May 26, 2009, May 27, 2009, May 28, 2009, May 28, 2009, and May 28, 2009). Doing so risks damaging the Republican Party’s image, he says. Steele, who is an African-American, warns that the “liberal media,” and particularly MSNBC, will use the racially motivated attacks to paint Republicans as bigots. “MSNBC will rip everything we have to say up into shreds,” he says. “I’m excited that a Hispanic woman is in this position,” he says. Republicans should stop “slammin’ and rammin’” on Sotomayor, and instead “acknowledge” the “historic aspect” of the pick and make a “cogent, articulate argument” against her for purely substantive reasons. Steele says the party doesn’t want to “get painted as a party that’s against the first Hispanic woman” picked for the Supreme Court. Democrats have made similar attacks on conservative candidates in the past, Steele avers, and says that the “liberal media” gave Democrats an unfair advantage in such controversies. Steele does not mention two of the loudest voices in the racially-based attacks against Sotomayor, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh. Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent writes: “It’s a reminder of Steele’s predicament: He knows how badly these attacks are damaging the party and how neatly they play into the hands of Dems, but he can’t call out the leading figures launching those attacks, because that risks infuriating the base and feeding the meme that the GOP is hopelessly divided.” [Plum Line, 5/29/2009] Two weeks before, while hosting Bennett’s show, Steele had attacked Sotomayor’s intellect and personality, calling her “not a bell ringer” and “abrasive.” [Think Progress, 5/29/2009] A week later, while hosting Bennett’s show, Steele will say, “God help you if you’re a white male coming before her bench” (see June 5, 2009).

Entity Tags: Republican Party, Sonia Sotomayor, MSNBC, Greg Sargent, US Supreme Court, Michael Steele

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Michael Steele, the chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC), speaks to an audience of around 150 at Howard University in Washington. Steele’s speech is part of his outreach to historically African-American colleges and universities. Unfortunately for his outreach program, the first few rows in the auditorium are reserved for local Young Republicans; all of the attendees from that organization are white. Steele’s dialogue has few moments for the audience to contribute, as he delivers a long speech about providing for your own future, with all questions submitted in writing while he speaks. However, the dynamic changes when 23-year-old Amanda Duzak, a Towson University graduate, stands up against the rules of engagement and speaks out of turn. Steele had finished criticizing the idea of the “public option,” the proposed government-run alternative to private health insurance. Duzak says: “My mother died of cancer six months ago because she could only afford three of her six prescription chemotherapy medications. There are 50 million people in this country who could end up like my mom, suffering or dying because they do not have adequate health care (see September 17, 2009). Everyone in this room and everyone in this country should have access to good health care.” Duzak receives a solid round of applause, and Steele answers her. After saying he believes in mature, honest discussion, he says, “People are coming to these town meetings and they’re like [he then shakes].” Gesturing directly at Duzak, he adds: “It makes for great TV. You’ll probably make it tonight, enjoy it.” Steele then turns his back on Duzak as the crowd continues to applaud her. [Think Progress, 9/2/2009; Huffington Post, 9/2/2009; Washington Independent, 9/2/2009]

Entity Tags: Michael Steele, Republican National Committee, Amanda Duzak

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda

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