I guess Michael Steele winning the Republican National Committee Chairmanship is historic, in the way Pumpsie Green being the first African American player to play for the Boston Red Sox (The Sox being the last MLB team to integrate) is historic.
Frankly, if Steele didn’t win the post, it would have been a bigger story. Steele’s last opponent for the post (five other gentleman were up for the position, dropping out when it became evident victory was out of reach) was South Carolina GOP chief Katon Dawson, who dropped a membership of a all-white golf club in 2008. Other candidates were Mike Duncan, the then incumbent chairman (when your party get the national drubbing it did in 2008, the guy in charge of the party doesn’t really have a lot to base reelection on) and former Tennessee GOP chairman Chip Saltsman (who thought it was a good idea to send his associates a mix CD with the “Barack The Magic Negro” parody song for Christmas). If Steele, who is as bland as Oatmeal made with water, couldn’t beat these guys, it would signify the GOP is doubling down on the Real America/Not Real America that worked so well in November.
And Steele loves puppies!
Not to mention Chairman of the Republican National Committee barely gives him the prestige to ensure his regular table at the Mrs. K's Toll House Sunday brunch. Current Virginia governor Tim Kaine is doing the job on the Democratic side on a part time basis until his current term ends in 2010). He moves up the list of people the 24 hour news networks call for punditry, but that is about it.
What is more interesting to me is some conservatives consider his victory an ode to identity politics, as if Steele was any less qualified (he was the chairman for the Maryland GOP before becoming Lt. Governor) than anyone else for the post. While I am sure some of this was bitterness that their respective candidates didn’t win (PUMA’s anyone?), some of it has to be the idea the main reason an African-American candidate for anything wins is because of his or her race. Of course, this did not stop the GOP from giving Steele a speaking part at their national convention; it seems for the GOP, identity politics are okay as long as the identity in question doesn’t actually have any power.