On the way home last night from a particularly fun evening at Thirsty Dog, I listened to some conservative radio talk show. I do this fairly often, basically because I like to try to understand the other side as much as I can, plus I'm really excited about the upcoming elections and it isn't like there is any liberal talk radio shows.
The commentator happened to be talking about the Steele/Cardin Senate race, and said that the two candidates had pulled even - 46% each. I didn't believe it, but NPR confirmed it this morning (although other polls show Cardin to be 10 points ahead still... it's his race to lose, it appears).
I have a lot of cautious optimism about these midterm elections, so I was dismayed to hear the news about Steele. However, the Political Science minor in me is just fascinated with his campaign. Obviously, Mr. Steele wants to distance himself from a President with a historically low approval rating. I do not begrudge Mr. Steele for this; it is often necessary for both parties to distance themselves from whomever is in charge. However, even I am surprised by the obviousness of how he is doing it - the fact that he is a Republican isn't even on his website, for example.
The strangest thing, though, is Steele's campaign for change. His tour bus has a sign on it that says, "A Time for Change" and this is the theme for his campaign. This is so odd. How long are Republicans allowed to run on the "Change" platform when they have been in power of all three branches of government for the last six years?
Perhaps he means "change" in the Senate, but that would only make sense if he were running against an incumbent. Cardin would also be a Freshman Senator. Perhaps he means just a chance from Ben Cardin, who has been in Washington for a while now. But even that seems dubious, as the job of a Congressman and a Senator are very different. I find the change platform to be strange coming from a person whose party is in power in both the national and the state level.
The most controversial issue in Steele's campaign is the obvious one: race. As a friend of mine likes to say, the only ones who are allowed to talk about his race are Republicans. If a liberal talks about the paradox of Steele being a black man running on the Republican ticket, it's racism.
I don't begrudge Steele for recruiting Russell Simmons to star in radio commercials supporting Steele. Simmons' spots on the hip-hop station 92Q don't actually mention Steele's race; they just feature an obviously black voice trumpeting about how much Steele understands "our community" and what he has done for "our community."
This is cynical pandering, but it's nothing different than what most politicians do. However, if you call Steele out on it, he'll accuse you of, I don't know, throwing Oreo cookies at him. If you missed that, the Oreo cookie scandal is this ridiculous story in which Steele accused people of throwing Oreos (black on the outside, white on the inside) at him during a debate in 2002. The only thing is, it probably never happened, and, if it did, it was blown way out of proportion and continued to be used as a wedge in articles like this one.
The fact is, Michael Steele is a very conservative Republican. He doesn't support abortion even in the case of rape or incest. He is in support of a federal amendment banning gay marriage. He is against federal funding of stem cell research. And, despite what Mr. Simmons implies, I don't think he much represents the black community, either, as his administration failed fully fund the Thornton Commission, which set out to decrease class size in Baltimore City Public Schools. I'm in front 37 kids and 38 kids and 175 throughout each day, and all I've gotten as far as help from the Ehrlich/Steele administration is Steele's unfunded and visionless "Committee on Quality Education in Maryland. Steele is charismatic and a good speaker, and has done a neat job of sidestepping his Republicanism, but I'm hoping MD voters will start to see beyond that.
Ben Cardin is a good man. I preferred Mfume, but Cardin had a lot of guts and vision to vote against the Iraq War four years ago when few others saw it for what it was (including me). I will be very interested to see if Maryland voters go for style (Steele) over substance (Cardin) in this election.
The Anti-Quagmire President, Ctd - Obama acknowledges the danger of getting sucked deeper and deeper into a conflict: Jeffrey Goldberg also reports that last week John Kerry pushed for US ai...
18 minutes ago