Every circus needs a clown.
But let’s start with the state of the big tent. It’s in the country’s best interest for the GOP to recover as a serious alternative to the Left. Regardless of your ideological leanings, I suspect we can agree that ideas will be better if there’s a political cost to getting them wrong. The two-party system breaks down if one party unravels.
In the meantime, Michael Steele is left to entertain the audience between acts, since he is not yet representing a party with a coherent response to reality. He says ridiculous things (which we repeat). He struts and preens (which we follow with delight). But he is not among Republicans’ major problems (which we forget every time he grabs the spotlight).
Steele buys the GOP some time until the actors take their places, until the party is ready to deliver a more substantive performance. His role – which can be loosely understood as clowning — has a long and serious tradition. Do a quick Web search on clown history, and Steele jumps out at you in almost every description. Wikipedia summed it up nicely:
all-knowing (even if not particularly smart), bossy and cocky… [clowns] meet some deeply rooted needs in humanity: violation of taboos, the mockery of sacred and profane authorities and symbols, reversal of language and action
Some part of us needs Michael Steele and people like him. The challenges of fixing a country and planet are daunting. The truth and consequences of our choices are devastating. Send in the clowns. Now let’s get back to work making sure the show indeed goes on.