Michael Steele is a different kind of party chairman, or so I sometimes suspect. Rather than deal in the kind of triumphalist bravado usual to the breed, he acknowledges when his party is facing an uphill fight.
At least, he did last night, when (according to Wonkette quoting The Hill, which is how I heard about it — don’t think for a moment I’ve taken to watching the shouting heads) he told that Sean Hannity guy on Fox “not this year” when asked about the GOP winning control of the House. I sort of like the way Wonkette put it:
… Michael Steele, for one, does not think the GOP will win control of the House in the 2010 elections. Steele, whose job it is to ensure that the GOP wins control of the House in the 2010 elections, told Fox News thing Sean Hannity “not this year” in response to this exact question….
Steele’s honest approach is very different from the sort of thing you get, for instance, from a Karl Rove, who blathered in the WSJ last week about how “Ambitious Republicans should resolve to run for office next year.”
Rove thinks in terms of the traditional two-party see-saw model, whereby if things aren’t so rosy for the party in power, the party out of power gains by a magnitude equal to the “in” party’s distress. Add to that the convention of the party that holds the White House losing in the first off-year election, and you have a huge slide to the GOP.
But not this time. At this point in history, I think we’re seeing something new. I think the electorate is sufficiently fed up with both parties that the only thing it can think of as bad as THESE guys being in power is THOSE guys being in power. The public is wising up, and has had enough of the tit-for-tat, binary, if-you-don’t-choose-column-A-you-must-choose-column-B worldview that is thrust upon them by the parties, the Beltway interest groups and the MSM, especially 24/7 TV “news.”
I think people want something else. Yes, maybe I’m projecting here as founder of the UnParty, but I really think that, in spite of the fact that the Orwellian powers that be have denied the country the vocabulary necessary to think outside the either-or spectrum, the people are yearning for something else.
They don’t know what it is. They don’t know where to get it, but they want it. Neither of the parties is offering it, by definition. But when individuals within the parties play to it, they win elections. It’s how both Obama and McCain won their respective nominations. Each of them was the antipartisan option within his party. They each rose to the top by running against the Clinton-Bush model of hyperpartisanship. There are others who have broken the mold with some success — pro-life Democrats like Bob Casey in PA, Republicans willing to stand up for comprehensive immigration reform or against torture, like Lindsey Graham. Joe Lieberman (before he went postal on health care reform). Rahm Emanuel managed to win control of the House back in 2006 precisely because he courted Third Way type candidates, much to the chagrin of the True Believers.
At some point, alternatives will emerge in response to this demand. I mean, when you’re frustrated with the likes of Joe Wilson, there has to be something better to turn to than Rob Miller. (It ain’t me because I’m too busy trying to get a job.) There needs to be something better than Brand X when you’re fed up with Brand Y. It hasn’t fully emerged yet, but it will.
Steele senses this — that the days of “if they’re down, we’re up” are over. He may not be able to fully articulate what he’s sensing — after all, he and other party types lack the vocabulary (in fact, he resorts to the standard B.S. that the GOP’s problem is failing to be conservative enough, as “conservative” is popularly defined) — but he knows something is Out There. Maybe, as a black Republican, he is sensitized to alternatives, to trends that don’t run along the predicted tracks. Whatever the reason, he’s onto something…