Schieffer On The New Head of The RNC

Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, the deputy permanent chairman of the Republican National Convention, addresses the delegates at the Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2004, in New York.
AP
Weekly commentary by CBS Evening News chief Washington correspondent and Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer.
It did not generate nearly the attention that Barack Obama's winning the presidency did, and it shouldn't have. Some newspapers didn't even put it on the front page.

But in a year when history is being made by the minute, let us not overlook the significance and the irony of an African American, Michael Steele, the former lieutenant governor of Maryland, being elected to head the Republican National Committee.

When Lyndon Johnson signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act, he told a fellow Democrat, "We have lost the South for a generation." And he was right.

Richard Nixon capitalized on Southern anger brought on by that act, developed a "Southern strategy" which emphasized states rights, won the presidency twice, and a region where there had been few Republicans since the Civil War became the base of the reborn Republican Party.

Across the Deep South, Republicans were nearly always white; African Americans nearly always Democrats.

And then along came Obama, and the once-solid Republican South wasn't so solid anymore, and across the country, a bruised and battered Republican Party found itself with no identifiable leader.

So it was that the party of Lincoln which had freed the slaves but in the process had became the party of mainly white people, came full circle and turned to an African American Moses to lead it out of the political wilderness.

I had to wonder: What would Lyndon Johnson have thought of that?