Oxford AASC: Photo Essay

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PHOTO ESSAY

Black Conservatives

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Michael Steele

Michael Steele. Courtesy of the Republican National Committee.

In 2010, there were no black Republicans in Congress, and chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC) Michael Steele was arguably the most visible conservative African American in the United States (with the exception of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas). Steele, a corporate finance attorney, entered politics in 1993 as a Republican patron in Prince George's County, Maryland, home to one of the highest concentrations of middle-class African Americans in the United States. In 2003 he was elected lieutenant governor of Maryland, becoming the first African American to hold statewide office in that state. He was appointed RNC head after a losing a bid for the U.S. Senate in 2006. Despite his prominent position within the Republican Party, Steele supports numerous causes typically associated with Democrats, including support for affirmative action and a ban on assault weapons. Under his direction, the Republican Party has pledged a more concerted effort to recruit African Americans, citing the failures of Democratic institutions to remedy longstanding social disparities. Nevertheless, Steele's agenda has been overshadowed by his various public gaffes—a spat with influential conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh; an interview with GQ magazine in which he seemed to affirm abortion rights; revelations that he used RNC funds at a risqué Hollywood nightclub—leaving his future in Republican leadership uncertain.

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