Relentless Race Narrative

August 14, 2008

Sadly, there isn’t the slightest chance liberals will forgo the race narrative in this presidential race because painting the other side as racist is essential to their need to feel morally superior.

They can’t accept Obama’s candidacy as evidence of progress toward racial equality. They can’t permit the advancement of colorblindness because they sense it is detrimental both to their political interests and their self-esteem. After all, if liberals lost their self-anointment as moral paragons, they’d have nothing left because their policy agenda has the track record of an Edsel, with the exception that it won’t ever be taken off the market.

A mainstream media favorite, MSNBC’s Howard Fineman, in a piece criticizing McCain for allegedly painting Barack Obama as less American and patriotic than McCain, couldn’t help but throw in a pointed reference to race.

In describing the attendees at a Pennsylvania event for McCain that McCain surrogate Joe Lieberman headlined, Fineman wrote: “The crowd comprised a slice of America that McCain needs if he intends to win Pennsylvania and the election. And that slice is: white (I did not spot a single African American in the crowd), rural, ‘exurban,’ and mostly Protestant, with local roots stretching back centuries.”

See who always brings up this subject? What conservative would spend his time obsessing on skin color to the point of surveying the crowd for evidence of racial diversity? And what conservative would refer to American Caucasians as a “slice” of America, as if whites were some monolithic voting bloc?

But now that you brought it up, Howard, I suppose all of us commentators, as fellow masters of the obvious, can acknowledge that because Barack Obama is uniformly projected to capture 90 percent of the African-American vote and the majority of Hispanics, simple arithmetic dictates McCain has to win a majority of white voters.

So in the very column Fineman condemns McCain for supposedly playing the patriotism card “to scare the bejesus out of … Southern whites, evangelical Christians and combative neocons,” he dutifully plays the race card to scare and shame whites with all the subtlety one might expect from a liberal media soldier.

But Fineman is just one of hundreds of the media megaphone militia and academic armies foisting race into the campaign. They cannot and, more importantly, will not let it go.

Whether it’s The New Republic’s Peter Beinart intuiting a “large body of circumstantial evidence” indicating that “a significant number of white Democrats” won’t vote for Obama or liberal academics accusing Republicans of speaking in code to appeal to the basest instincts of white voters, the libs are compelled to handicap this race with race.

Reuters featured a piece by Matthew Bigg, titled “When it comes to race, U.S. politicians talk in code.” But while we’re talking code, a more intelligible rendering of Bigg’s title would be, “When it comes to race, U.S. conservative politicians speak in code to scare the bejesus out of white voters concerning Obama’s candidacy.”

Biggs says that references to Obama’s alleged inexperience (alleged?) and perceived arrogance (perceived?) “could also be seen as subtle racial digs,” according to unnamed commentators — probably meaning Biggs himself.

How do the unnamed clairvoyants infer racism from these legitimate criticisms against Obama? Simple. “Inexperience might be a substitute for an idea with roots in the era of U.S. slavery that African Americans couldn’t be trusted, while arrogance can be a way of suggesting that black people are ‘uppity’ or above their station.”

If you think that’s a stretch, check out the next one. Biggs cites Ronald Walters, professor of politics at the University of Maryland, as opining that McCain’s recent ad lampooning Obama as a celebrity like Britney Spears and Paris Hilton “played on deep cultural fears about inter-racial dating and marriage, which was illegal until the 1960s in some U.S. states.” “The code,” said Walters, “is used to remind people that the opponent is black.”

Could have fooled me. I thought it was a pretty direct slam on Obama for his vacuousness and superficial appeal. Not once did it cross my dark conservative mind that race had anything to do with it.

The irony is that liberals are the ones trapped in their own mythical narrative about white and conservative and evangelical racism because it is their best chance of holding their monopoly on black voters. If they were as concerned about blacks as much as they’ve convinced themselves they are, they would extricate themselves from the bonds of self-interest clouding their judgment and leading them to perpetuate the storyline and promote policies guaranteed, in the words of the insightful black writer William Owens Jr., to keep blacks “in the bondage of a welfare mentality that will never afford us our true worth today or future potential for our children and grandchildren.”