If reelected, President Obama will probably be forced to do something about entitlements, but that certain something will for now remain unspoken, and he instead will attack any proposals to change Social Security with the same gusto with which he once trashed the Iraq War and Guantanamo. Already, supportive commercials are airing with a Paul Ryan look-alike shoving a grandmother out of her wheelchair over a cliff. Other hit ads portray the elderly with walkers forced to mow lawns to raise money for their benefits. Ads like that will appear soft in comparison to what’s coming in the next 18 months.
Already, almost weekly one columnist or another insists that to criticize Barack Obama is to display racial bias. A reckless Donald Trump going after Obama’s birth certificate is emblematic of endemic racism; in contrast, unhinged nuts who claimed Sarah Palin never delivered her own child are perhaps a bit too zealous in a noble cause. House Assistant Minority Leader James Clyburn (D., S.C.) summarized the racialist strategy best, when he explicitly charged that opposition to Obama’s reelection hinges on racism: “The fact of the matter is, the president’s problems are in large measure because of his skin color.”
Clyburn’s demagoguery is a sort of strategic racial preemption: Prep the campaign in such a way that no one dares to talk of the president’s shortcomings for fear of being called a bigot — just as, in 2008, legitimate questions about the racist Rev. Jeremiah Wright and his intimate connection with Barack Obama were acknowledged to be off limits by a terrified McCain campaign. Yet there is no evidence that mainstream criticism of Barack Obama is racial or has in any way exceeded that shown George W. Bush or Sarah Palin. I will concede widespread racism and irrational hatred against the president when Alfred A. Knopf publishes a sick anti-Obama screed that exceeds Nicholson Baker’s Checkpoint; or when we see something comparable to the deplorable editorial that the Guardian published by Charlie Brooker, which ended with the question, “John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr. — where are you now that we need you?”; or to Jonathan Chait’s crazy “Mad about You: The Case for Bush Hatred” New Republic article.
In fact, the most racially condescending assessment of the president has come from Cornel West, professor of African-American studies at Princeton, who damned Obama as “a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats.” West went on more explicitly, couching his criticism of Obama in anti-Semitic, anti-white terms: “I think he does have a predilection much more toward upper-class white brothers and Jewish brothers and a certain distance from free black men who will tell him the truth about himself.”
The president himself — well after the beer summit, Eric Holder’s rants about “cowards” and “my people,” the racist inanities of Van Jones, the “wise Latina,” and all the rest — in ethnically divisive fashion urged Latinos to punish their conservative enemies, and joked that his opponents wanted alligators and moats to stop Mexican nationals from crossing the border.
So will this tripartite strategy work? Only if the president’s opponents allow themselves to be caricatured as greedy Wall Street profiteers who want to punish the elderly and are prejudiced against blacks. And if they can’t answer back defiantly to that nonsense, then they really do deserve to lose.
— NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, the editor of Makers of Ancient Strategy: From the Persian Wars to the Fall of Rome, and the author of The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern.