Michael Steele, Nazi Doctors, Stem Cell Research, and Abortion

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I’ve written many posts recently predicting that if the social conservatives continue to dominate the Republican Party they will remain a regional party of the south and Mormon-belt of the west (currently their only safe states), or possibly go the way of the Whigs. Many Republicans appear to understand the problems they face and are seeking to change the look of the GOP. One move in that direction is the election of Michael Steele as the first black chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Steele is a pro-life conservative, opposing abortion even in case of rape and incest. This is hardly a radical change, but many observers such as Marc Ambinder do see this as meaningful:

Even more than race, even as Steele lauded the party’s conservative members, his election marks a step away from the balkanized Southern white ethos of the party. Steele, pro-life, has worked with moderate Republicans all of his life, although he did his best during the campaign to minimize those ties. If he reverts to form, it means that the RNC has just selected a chairman who will not prioritize social issues above economic issues.  When people speak of broadening the party’s geographic diversity, they are speaking in code. They mean that the party needs to welcome more moderates; needs to be more forgiving of departures from orthodoxy; need to be less antagonistic to pro-choicers and gays.

The question is whether this will be enough. Even if they don’t make restriction of abortion rights and discrimination against gays their primary issues, a party which still advocates such positions will remain an unacceptable choice.

Steele might be more moderate than some Republicans running around but, considering how extreme the GOP has become in recent years, this leaves room for someone to still be a right wing extremist even if they are not the most reactionary person in the room.

Ben Smith received the Maryland Democratic Party’s opposition research book from Michael Steele’s 2006 race for Senate (full book in pdf form here). Smith points out this item:

While speaking to the Baltimore Jewish Council, Michael Steele compared doctors conducting stem cell research to Nazis performing human experiments during the Holocaust: “You of all folks know what happens when people decide to experiment on human beings, when they want to take your life and use it as a tool.” [Associated Press, 2/10/06]

nazi-doctors

Steele reportedly changed his position after he said the above and began to support embryonic stem cell research. His views are also contradictory with regards to banning gay marriage at the federal level or leaving this to the states to ban (with banning at some level apparently being the only options on the table for him):

Steele: Gay Marriage Is A State Issue, But Supports A Federal Amendment. In August 2004, the Washington Times reported that, “[Steele] said each state should decide the issue, but added that he supports President Bush’s efforts in calling for a constitutional amendment to define marriage,  because some states are unwilling to act.” [Washington Times, 8/26/04]

Stressing economic issues as opposed to social issues would be an improvement for the GOP, but only if they can drop their social conservative positions as easily as Steele dropped his objection to embryonic stem cell research. Some believe that conservatives who are so out of touch with reality to equate abortion with “baby killing” can never drop their opposition to abortion. If Steele can drop his objection to stem cell research after equating it with Nazi doctors and the Holocaust, then perhaps other Republicans can moderate their views on abortion.

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