Republicans are paying a terrible price for their cynical decision to make Michael Steele their chairman.
And it's not about the money.
Reporters are poring over the Republican National Committee's expenditures for further evidence of the culture of profligacy Steele has fostered.
Steele picked a Hawaiian resort for the party's winter meeting and uses corporate jet charters to keep up with a schedule packed with book events and speaking engagements that profit him personally.
The employee who sprang for a $2,000 bar tab at an L.A. nightclub and the unnamed staffer that spent almost $1,000 for "office supplies" at a Vermont winery were reflections of a corporate culture, not rogue agents.
Steele is touting the party's $11.4 million fundraising in March -- more than any previous March in a midterm year but less than the Democratic National Committee brought in.
Does anyone suppose that if Mike Duncan had stayed at the helm of the RNC that the amount wouldn't have been bigger? And how much smaller will the haul be in April, now that the gory details of Steele's spending have come to light?
You can understand why Newt Gingrich says that the time has come to quiet down about Steele. Gingrich is the same guy who said that Republicans should unite behind Dede Scozzafava in last fall's special election in New York. He knows that if you can't fix a problem, you should at least stop talking about it.
Republicans are doing everything they can to shove Steele into a closet. Gingrich wants a financial overseer for the party, and talking head after talking head encourages Steele to keep a lower profile.
Who are they kidding? Steele's main gift is talk, and he can bring it fast and furious. He's one of the best I've seen at the talking-point filibuster -- quick, electric and a little dangerous.
The idea that someone who lives on limelight will simply cloister himself and wait for his term to end is wishful thinking by Gingrich and others.
Whether Steele stays on as chairman or leaves, he will be in the news from now until November. He is a sound bite machine, loves publicity and gives establishment media outlets a chance to say embarrassing things about Republicans. Talk about a triple threat for cable TV.
But the biggest danger posed by Steele is not the loss of a few millions or some missed opportunities this fall.
The real risk is losing the party's best claim on minority voters.
As America becomes less white with each passing year, Democrats are betting that their party can dominate the future because they embrace special treatment for minorities.
When Barack Obama won the presidency, Republicans panicked and embraced identity politics. If the Democrats had a black president, Republicans would have a black chairman.
Now, that black chairman has repeatedly suggested that racism is to blame for his troubles and insinuated that his own party cannot handle having a black man in charge. It's the most damaging part of the whole Steele affair.
Republicans have a claim on racial equality stretching back 154 years, but the GOP will never match Democrats as the party of retributive racial justice.
Tokensim and affirmative action are at the heart of the Democratic ideology, but they will also be of less and less value as America diversifies in the years to come. When everyone is a minority, the idea of special treatment for some but not others will seem absurd to voters.
Barring Steele's racially motivated selection and subsequent cries of racism, Republicans can make a credible claim that they favor a color-blind society.
As we see Hispanics and Asians start moving toward the GOP, the pallid complexion of the party will continue to change. Consider that 100 years ago, Democrats won over southern and eastern European immigrants by promising to do more for them. Now their great-grandchildren are just as likely to be Republicans who ask the government to do less for everybody.
The racially uncool move to pick Steele as chairman was the kind of pandering that voters expect from Democrats. And if Republicans become a party that sees race first and abilities second, they will lose their hard-earned claim on being a party that cherishes real equality.
And what would communicate the belief in equality more perfectly than booting a chairman who is using his race to try to hold on to power?
Chris Stirewalt is the political editor of the Washington Examiner. He can be reached at email@example.com.