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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Internet Powerhouse Andy Martin says "Leave Michael Steele alone, already,"

Andy Martin presents his blueprint for a modern Republican Party

Martin says Americans want leaders, not dictators, in congress and the White House

Executive Editor

“Factually Correct, Not
Politically Correct”





(NEW YORK)(March 13, 2009) Michael Steele, the new Chairman of the Republican National Committee, is catching hell—from Republicans. I am happy to defend Steele despite his missteps. Republicans should thank their lucky stars they have Mr. Steele as their "leader."

Recently Steele made some boneheaded remarks about Rush Limbaugh, and for those he was properly criticized. Rush is not an official part of the Republican Party, and he has every right to say what he wants. I don't agree with everything Limbaugh says, but then not everyone agrees with everything I say. I have readers who are absolutely devoted to me on the issue of Barack Obama, and who also think my views on the Middle East are dead wrong.

And so, yes, Steele was rightly taken to the woodshed for criticizing Limbaugh, someone who does not speak as a Republican Party "leader" and is not a party functionary. In a media-addled world, people do have to "shout a little louder" to be heard, and Rush Limbaugh is certainly heard. Without betraying any envy (there is none), I would like to have Limbaugh's platform. Leave Rush alone. Let Limbaugh be Limbaugh.

Steele learned that making offhanded comments about Rush on live TV can be dangerous. It is a lesson well learned and, in his case, learned early.

Just as the Limbaugh brouhaha was starting to subside, Steele received new criticism for an interview given weeks ago but that is only now appearing in GQ magazine. Former Governor Mike Huckabee was quick to suggest Steele was suggesting infanticide. Ken Blackwell, a former Ohio official, went further and demanded that Steele "reread the Bible." Whoa.

First, let me state the obvious. Both parties, whether they like it or not, are "big tents." Not all Democrats, and certainly not all Democrats in Congress, are Nancy Pelosi liberals. Likewise, Republicans reflect differing views, although the Republican Party's primary election base has become even more extreme than the Democrats' primary election base.

The problem for Republicans is that the party has been vanishing before our eyes. The Midwest has lost Republican representation. There is not one Republican in Congress from the Northeast. The "national" Republican Party is being regionalized and marginalized into a party primarily based in the south. McCain even lost stalwart Florida in 2008. Not a good sign.

Yes, there are lots of Republicans in Illinois, and Indiana, and Ohio, and so forth; and yes the RP is going to elect a lot of new officials in 2010. But the party's long-term sustainability and viability have been deteriorating for decades.

Up until the 1970's, Republicans were a much bigger tent and more tolerant tent than they are today. As recently as the 1960's Republicans even elected a congressman from Manhattan. Yes, Manhattan, New York (New York City).

So what happened? Why is the party's base narrowing?

Until Ronald Reagan arrived on the national scene, evangelical, pro-life voters were found in both parties. Abortion was not seen as a "political" issue. Reagan adopted the pro-life position as an official part of the Republican platform, and he rode "Reagan Democrats" into a 1980 victory.

America has evolved since 1980. But many Republicans would like to pretend, or perhaps want to believe, that America has not changed in almost 30 years. Obviously we have. And we are going to change a lot more in the next 30 years, from 2010 to 2040.

How can Republicans survive and grow?

Mr. Steele is the answer. At a minimum he is part of the solution.

First, Steele represents a clear break from the past. Great. Because I am a Republican, I can say "we" needed to change.

Second, Steele spoke the truth to GQ, and the attacks on him reflect the attitudes of people that think they can win in 2010 the same was Reagan did in 1980. To be blunt, "those days are gone forever."

I like the fact that the Republican Party is a conservative party. Unfortunately we abandoned any sense of restraint in matters fiscal during the past eight years, began a war in Iraq that made no sense, and paid for these mistakes at the ballot box. Voters who had tolerated conservative dogma on social issues and still voted for Republicans because of their belief in fiscal restraint and an avoidance of foreign entanglements, saw that Republicans had been "reduced" like a chef's overheated sauce into nothing more than strident social issues. We had forfeited any sense of fiscal or foreign policy responsibility.

If John McCain had not, to use a pilot's term, "flamed out" during the week when he suspended his campaign and made a fool of himself, and had instead voted against the original Wall Street bailout, as I felt he should have, he would be sitting in the White House today. Of course, McCain was also "too liberal" for the right-wing groaners who are now attacking Steele. The right wing has a totally delusional view of what the next Republican president is going to look like.

Can Republicans become a national party again? Maybe. Maybe not. We must emphatically distinguish between wining a few elections and winning the hearts and minds of the American people. Yes, Republicans will win, and probably will win big in 2010. But that "anti" vote in 2010 will be a reflection of buyer's remorse with Obama, not an acceptance of dictatorial Republican attitudes on social issues as conservatives will claim. And no, winning in reaction to Democratic blunders does not rebuild the party nationally.

So where do I come down on the ultimate issues, and why do I support Steele?

First, Republicans need to realize that they can be conservative without being dictatorial. No one likes abortions. I don't. But given a choice between judges and prosecutors to make decisions on the one hand, and doctors and mothers on the other, I trust mothers and doctors, however flawed their judgment may be.

Public officials have enough on their plate without being told to supervise and superintend either teenage sex or abortion practices. If I have to "choose" between a courthouse and a hospital as the decision-making location, I choose the medical facility.

Senator McCain saw what happens when you preach morality without practicality. He chose someone to be his running mate whom I liked. And I still like. Governor Sarah Palin. But she was no more immune from family problems than anyone else. Ironically, I disagree with Palin on social issues, but I like her moxie and would like to be able to support her once (and if) she is shorn of her authoritarian instincts on social policy. And please no lectures about "banning" abortion.

Pro-lifers? Some of the nicest people I have met in politics are pro-life. They are wonderful people. I love 'em. As an abstract principle, I agree with them. In practice, I feel we must accept humanity as flawed, and adopt social policies that allow individuals, not institutions, to control the private lives of our citizens.

I worked for a U. S. Senator, Paul Douglas, who lived a full public life in the twentieth century. One of his favorite expressions, given to many as well as to me, was "When I was a young man, I wanted to save the world. Then I was middle-aged and I was content to try and save the United States in World War II. Today I would be content to save the (Indiana) dunes." He saved the dunes.

In order to buy votes, all politicians make promises they can’t keep. Just as Republicans constantly betray their right-wing "base" when in office, Obama Democrats are doing likewise to their left-wing base today.

In Paul Douglas' spirit, I would be happy if the Republican Party were committed to (1) keeping the United States safe and strong; (2) ensuring that we maintain a strong and free economy and (3) fighting to keep corruption and conflicts of interest out of our public life.

Sadly, extremist voters never want to hear the truth. They love politicians who pander and, in the case of Republicans, many "conservatives" would rather lose than confront reality. In 2006 I ran commercials across the State of Illinois calling on President Bush to rethink our Iraq strategy. I was viciously attacked by right-wingers. I responded that they could listen to me, or hear it all from the Democrats on Election Day. They preferred to listen to the Democrats, and Republicans were wiped out. There was no room for pragmatism and conservatism in their view. It was all or nothing, and they got nothing.

They got nothing again in 2008 when Senator McCain took an early lead, and then fumbled his lead when Obama appeared "safe and secure" in the face of the economic crisis, and McCain suddenly appeared wobbly and inconsistent. McCain lost.

The Republican Party is not going to vanish. But if they maintain a strident attitude towards society, they are not going to fool anyone into voting for their presidential candidate either. Republicans will increasingly become a minority party that only gets an electoral mandate in response to Democratic failures, instead of being a party with an affirmative base of support.

For example, the Republican Party is not going to be chosen to amend the Constitution to ban abortion. That's nonsense.

If Republicans were honest with voters, and said "We need to do everything we can to avoid the need for abortions, consistent with a practical recognition of the reality of human behavior," they would be on the road to majority status again.

Likewise, many Democrats as well as Republicans want to take a traditional view of marriage. But being cautious on gay rights does not mean being hostile to civil unions. Steele spoke the truth when he said no one chooses to be gay. We have just as many gays in the Republican Party as they do in the Democratic Party. Why not be honest and embrace them?

Reliving the Reagan dream is not going to bring back Reagan. I liked Reagan; but I am also aware that a campaign appealing to Reagan's 1980 issues is not going to find favor in 2010, or 2012.

Michael Steele should confront the Republican Party, gently, subtly and without attacking Rush or anyone else. He should "stir it up" with provocative views on social and political issues. And he should try to narrow the party's dogma and broaden the party's support, by adopting the genuine "political restraint" reflected in a platform pledged simply to keeping America strong, keeping our economy strong and fighting corruption in our national institutions. Those are three issues with 100% support across the political spectrum. Now that's "real" limited government.

The 1994 "Contract With America" was a simple proclamation; Republicans won. If Republicans could accomplish my three goals—and they failed miserably on all counts during the Bush years—they would win again and be a national party. Republicans need to embrace the concept of letting people make their own decisions about how to live their lives, with a minimum of government interference, not a maximum of legislated morality.

Do I hope Michael Steele survives and succeeds? Yes I do. And to my Republican friends, "Please be a little quieter and a little more tolerant and a little more aware of the real world. If you want a rigid social catechism, join the Catholic Church, not the Republican Party. Trust the people, and listen to their voice. Obama did. The rest is history."
Readers of Obama: The Man Behind The Mask, say the book is still the only gold standard and practical handbook on Barack Obama's unfitness for the presidency. Buy it.
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Andy Martin is a legendary Chicago muckraker, author, Internet columnist, radio talk show host, broadcaster and media critic. He has over forty years of broadcasting experience in radio and television and is the dean of Illinois media and communications. He is currently promoting his best-selling book, Obama: The Man Behind The Mask. Andy is the Executive Editor and publisher of

Martin comments on regional, national and world events with over four decades of experience. He holds a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Illinois College of Law and is a former adjunct professor of law at the City University of New York. He is an announced candidate for Barack Obama’s former U. S. Senate seat in 2010,

His columns are also posted at;

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