What can we expect in 2012? Race all the time at every venue. In 2008, there were two general themes to the blank-slate candidacy of Barack Obama: (1) America could change history by electing its first African-American president, and (2) a vote for Barack Obama was a repudiation of the then-unpopular George Bush. But four years later there is now an Obama record of dismal economic growth, huge deficits, astronomical new national debt, high unemployment, fresh class and racial divisions, and a failed reset/outreach foreign policy that had promised breakthroughs with Iran, the Palestinians, Russia, Syria, and Venezuela, based on redefining traditional notions of friends and enemies.
Who would wish to run on a record like that?
But the alternative? In 2012, unlike 2008, there is less novelty in Barack Obama as our first black president. And George Bush is now four years into the past. For Obama, then, we are left with a demonized “them.”
Sometimes “they” are the suspect “1 percent” who enjoy their privileges through ill-gotten gains. Sometimes they are reactionary enemies of big government. And sometimes they are veritable racists — the sorts who stereotype minorities, who are cowards, who turn away voters from the polls, who do not like Americans who look different from them, who object to record debt largely as a way to disguise their own racial bias — and who surely need to be punished.
This is going to be an ugly campaign. The Obama team will revert to race unceasingly, in cry-wolf fashion, and thus cheapen the currency with every charge. In turn, the more we will hear allegations of “racism,” the less people will pay attention to them. And so all the more frequently will such discounted slurs have to be repeated — sort of like pushing about wheelbarrows of Depression-era inflated German marks to purchase ever fewer commodities.
There will be many legacies of Barack Obama. Racial divisiveness is proving the most disturbing.
— NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author most recently of the just-released The End of Sparta, a novel about ancient freedom.