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The Tentacle


April 19, 2006

Guess Who’s Coming to the Election

Kevin E. Dayhoff

In a remake of the classic 1967 movie, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” the royal blue portion of Old Line State just doesn’t quite know what to make of the continuing success of Maryland’s Dr. Prentice – Lt. Gov. Michael Steele.

Many Tentacle readers remember the 1967 large screen depiction of Middle American coming to grips with interracial relationships and the reality that love doesn’t see the color barrier.

To refresh your memory, the plot surrounds the daughter of a successful white and upwardly mobile family, played by Katherine Houghton, who meets “Dr. Prentice,” played by Sidney Poitier, in a whirlwind romance and brings him home to Mom and Dad to announce their impending marriage.

The roles of the Mom and Dad are played by Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. Dr. Prentice – Poitier – is the epitome of everything that a Mom or Dad would want in a son-in-law, except that he is black. Oops.

In the 2006 Maryland version, Lt. Gov. Michael Steele is a rising star and has come home to Maryland’s moms and dads. He is refreshingly authentic, articulate, young, well-educated, results oriented and has many invigorating good ideas that are resonating with Maryland voters. The only problem for the royal blue majority party in Maryland is that he is an African-American leader and – gasp – a Republican. Oh, my stars, this just won’t do.

The Maryland Democratic Party is beside itself. This isn’t supposed to happen.

Isn’t this the same fellow that the editorial board of Baltimore’s Sun said, "[Michael Steele] brings little to the team but the color of his skin,” on November 4, 2002?

Most Marylanders’ moms and dads know just what to do with this one-person whirlwind – they are going to vote for him to be our next U. S. senator to replace the retiring liberal Democrat Paul Sarbanes.

The Maryland Democratic Party also knows what to do, thanks to a March 27 confidential report prepared for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee by a top National Democratic Party strategist and paid for by the Democratic National Party.

Cornell Belcher’s report reflects what many have understood to be the Democrat’s response to Lieutenant Governor Steele for quite some time – smear him before he starts being a perfect suitor for Maryland voters in this fall’s election and inspires a full fledged revolt in the Democrats’ 40-year strangle-hold on African-American voters and Maryland politics.

Meanwhile the new ideas relevant to the average mom and dad at the kitchen table are coming from Republicans. At the family level, most do not care what party has the new ideas and approaches or the color of the skin of the person in the leadership; they simply want better schools, tax relief, crime-free neighborhoods, meaningful employment, quality of life issues addressed and a bright future for their children.

In a parallel plot, the major newspapers in Maryland are often gleeful when Republicans differ, but the average mom and dad are happy to see different ideas being brought forth.

This is not your father’s Grand Old Party. Many African-American leaders are taking notice that in the Republican Party, different opinions are welcome and they can have a voice and chart their own course.

Which brings to mind the fundamental humor of trying to label Lieutenant Governor Steele as aligned with President Bush? The Washington Times noted that the March 27 report suggests the Dems should “knock Steele down” by linking him to President Bush and “national Republicans,” and turn the lieutenant governor “into a typical Republican in the eyes of voters, as opposed to an African-American candidate.”

But the paradox is that the report proves Mr. Steele’s opponents are admitting that he is not a "typical Republican" – they admit that they are trying to whitewash him as something he is not.

Try as they might, Mr. Steele sure as heck doesn’t look like Vice President Dick Chaney. You could even dress him up in designer boots with stiletto heels and he will never be as good looking as Condoleezza Rice.

The Washington Times recently pointed out that the report cites Lieutenant Governor Steele as a “unique threat.” It adds that Governor Ehrlich and Lieutenant Governor Steele “have a clear ability to break through the Democrats’ stronghold among African-American voters in Maryland.”

Meanwhile, African-Americans know from history that the Democrats’ race-based strategy is fundamentally wrong. We don't need any political party scheming about how to divide Marylanders by race. We should be working to unite the state and find real solutions to the real challenges we face.

Many African-Americans are whispering that if this is the way the Democrats treat the lieutenant governor, what are the other confidential Democrat strategies towards community leaders of color?

In an even sadder turn of events, The Washington Times reported, “Black Democratic leaders in the state legislature were reluctant to talk about the poll.” Hmmm.

Maybe it is time for some different black leaders to assume leadership roles in our state.

Instead of the Democrats offering one positive thing to say about their own vision for Maryland, their only exercise of vision is to see the color of a person’s skin. Mr. Steele’s opponents have cooked up a concerted strategy to "discredit" Mr. Steele (their word) and "knock [him] down" (their words) before Maryland ever has a chance to hear his message.

In the 1967 movie, the Mom is quick to see that Dr. Prentice is good for her daughter and in the end the Dad comes to the same conclusion.

The March 27 report affirms, "Steele's messaging to the African-American community has clearly had a positive effect – with many voters reciting his campaign slogans and his advertising.”

Remember, most Maryland families don’t care what party has the best ideas or the best results. Most moms and dads have come to love the lieutenant governor.

1967 was almost 40 years ago and most Maryland families have recognized that Michael Steele is good for Maryland and, as Dr. Martin Luther King once hoped, don’t see the color of his skin, only the content of his character.

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster Maryland. E-mail him at: kdayhoff@carr.org



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