The Freepers are freaking out but this isn’t quite as bad as it sounds, I think. Is it?

Why should an African-American vote Republican?

You really don’t have a reason to, to be honest — we haven’t done a very good job of really giving you one. True? True,” Republican National Chairman Michael Steele told 200 DePaul University students Tuesday night…

“We have lost sight of the historic, integral link between the party and African-Americans,” Steele said. “This party was co-founded by blacks, among them Frederick Douglass. The Republican Party had a hand in forming the NAACP, and yet we have mistreated that relationship. People don’t walk away from parties, Their parties walk away from them.

“For the last 40-plus years we had a ‘Southern Strategy’ that alienated many minority voters by focusing on the white male vote in the South. Well, guess what happened in 1992, folks, ‘Bubba’ went back home to the Democratic Party and voted for Bill Clinton.”

My outrageous outrage was initially piqued but Frank at IMAO has been trying to talk me down on Twitter. His point: All Steele’s saying, when you translate this from Steele-ese to effective PR-speak, is that the GOP needs to repair relations with minority voters before it can expect them to give conservatism a chance. It’s not that the party has nothing to offer, it’s that the strategic choices it’s made — and do note, he’s not the first RNC chair to disown the southern strategy — have poisoned perceptions of its policies. Acknowledge that forthrightly and you win points for honesty, which you can use as a foundation to build trust. All of which is well and good, but the “you don’t have a reason” line is naturally being beamed out by big media and used as an opportunity to revisit some of Steele’s less charming bon mots over the past year. Which raises the question: Why is he still even speaking in public? If he can’t contain the gaffes, fine; just turn off the mic and fundraise.

Exit mitigating factor: During the same speech, he may have exaggerated the size of the tea-party movement. If you’re going to make mistakes, make flattering ones!

Tags: Republicans