The former Republican Party chairman said the Trump administration's policy separating immigrant families was a cynical ploy to rally their base ahead of the midterm elections -- and he's worried it will work.
White House adviser Stephen Miller has admitted the policy was intended to turn voters against Democrats, and former GOP chairman Michael Steele told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that the strategy would likely solidify President Donald Trump's base.
"I think it's more the red meat that they want," Steele said.
Some administration officials have admitted the controversial policy was intended as a deterrent to would-be immigrants, and Steele said the GOP base wanted them to fear coming to the U.S.
"I was struck by the ... interview with the mother who, when asked would you do this if you knew your child would be separated, in that clip was, 'I wouldn't have come,'" Steele said. "That's the whole point. They want that clip. That's the soundbite that defines this."
Steele said so far the policy seems to be working as Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions intended.
"That defines who we are, so as far as the administration is concerned, this is working," Steele said. "This is exactly right and so for the base, there's no need to move off of this. But here's the rub, there's the rest of the country, and what I'm curious about is how the rest of the country outside of that 35 percent, 42 percent, whatever that number is."
The Republican Party not that long ago defined itself as the party of family values, and Steele wondered how GOP voters would feel about this abrupt shift.
"Remember how we used to beat people up all the time on this issue about being pro-family and the fact that other policies of other administrations did not respect the family and the rights of the family to keep the family together?" he said. "Now we here in the business of tearing that piece of paper up and writing a new contract that says something very different about the kind of America we are."