What if America transcended race, and Barack Obama wasn’t invited?
The question comes to mind as cries of racism grow ever louder among Obama’s supporters.
No one should be surprised. Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, liberal Democrats have to accuse their opponents of racism. Indeed, somewhat to their credit, fighting racism — alas, even where it doesn’t exist — is one of the reasons they became liberal Democrats in the first place.
And that’s the great irony of the Obama presidency. It was Obama’s supporters who hinted, teased, promised, and prophesied that Obama would help America “transcend race.” But now, it is they who shrink from their own promised land.
After all, it was not Obama’s detractors who immediately fell into the comfortable groove of racial grievance and familiar “narratives” when Henry Louis Gates insisted that a police instructor in racial sensitivity had to be a racist. That was Obama and his choir of heralds.
From Day 1, Obama’s supporters have tirelessly cultivated the idea that anything inconvenient for the first black president just might be terribly, terribly racist.
This was always the nasty side of Obama’s implied hope for unity. Obama gave oxygen to the idea that disagreement with him amounted to obstructing his mission to “transcend race.” During the campaign, that meant anyone who got in his way was wittingly or unwittingly abetting racism (just ask Bill Clinton). A writer for Slate insisted journalists must not call attention to the fact that Obama is “skinny.” Such observations fuel racism by highlighting his physical appearance, and that in turn might suddenly alert racist American voters to the fact that Obama is . . . wait for it . . . black.
Now that he’s president, if you question his tax policies, energy plans, or health-care ambitions, you are “hoping he will fail” — and that, with the help of roundabout reasoning, is tantamount to hoping we cannot transcend race.
Loading the deck in such a way is a gift of Obama’s. Time and again, he pre-empts dissent by claiming he’s open-minded, pragmatic, and non-ideological, and therefore if you disagree with him, you must be some sort of zealot.
His shock troops make the same argument about race, sometimes with sophistication, sometimes with the kind of lucid clarity only profound stupidity can provide. For instance, actress Janeane Garofalo summed up the tea parties thusly: “This is about hating a black man in the White House. This is racism straight up.”
A more sophisticated version comes from Princeton professor Melissa Harris-Lacewell, who finds racism in complaints that socialized medicine would result in fewer Americans “taking responsibility” for their own health care. “What we know over the past 25 years,” she told NPR, “is that language of personal responsibility is often a code language used against poor and minority communities.” In an ABC News story about how racist white militias are somehow connected to town-hall protests, Mark Potok of the dismayingly left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center insists Obama has “triggered fears among fairly large numbers of white people in this country that they are somehow losing their country.”
Two weeks ago, town hallers were supposed to be members of the Brooks Brothers brigade, Astroturf division. Now they’re well-armed anti-government militias. At this rate, they’ll soon be android ninjas with laser vision. Wait, strike that. They’ll be really racist android ninjas with laser vision.
Suddenly, if conservatives want to transcend race, we have to agree to massive increases in the size of government and socialized medicine.
That’s not transcending race, it’s using Obama’s race to bully the opposition into acquiescence. Actually transcending race would require treating Obama like any other president. Which is pretty much exactly what conservatives have been doing. Seriously, if Hillary Clinton were president, would conservatives really be rolling over for the same health-care plan because she’s white?
Sure, racists don’t like Obama. (In less shocking news, bears continue to use our national forests as toilets.) But that doesn’t mean everyone who dislikes Obama is therefore a racist.
What’s dismaying is how the press and Democrats are so desperate to obscure this point. The only notable political violence at a town hall was against a black man, roughed up by pro-Obama toughs. The assault weapon lawfully carried to a demonstration was carried by a black man. That supposedly racist poster depicting Obama as the Joker? (An LA Weekly writer fumed, “The only thing missing is a noose.”) That was created by a Palestinian-American supporter of left-wing garden gnome Dennis Kucinich. Whoops!
Never mind. They’ll keep trying until they find a scapegoat that works, because that is what they do.
– Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and the author of Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning. © 2009 Tribune Media Services, Inc.