The Corner

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‘Take Back America’ Is Now a Racist Phrase


I don’t have time to go line by line through this silliness. But Paul Waldman’s piece on why anti-Obama sentiment is racist and/or dangerously radical is really a classic of the burgeoning art form. Here’s one passage:

Let’s be absolutely clear — many people who dislike the president or his agenda are perfectly comfortable with his race. After all, just under 60 million Americans voted for John McCain, and they did so for many reasons. But it’s becoming clear that the presence of a black man in the Oval Office, combined with the increasingly diverse makeup of the American public — most particularly the growing number of Latinos – is causing some to not only see terrible threats in things they cared very little about a year ago. It’s also causing them to cast aside any pretense of commitment to the basic legitimacy of the American system as it exists today.

The current fight over health-care reform is the arena in which this trend is becoming evident, but the details of that issue are not really motivating the most intense opponents. When you show up at a town hall debate and yell that reform represents “socialized medicine,” you just don’t know much about socialism (or health care, for that matter). But when you come to that town hall and shout “I want my America back!” through tears, you aren’t talking about health care at all.

Talk about suddenly seeing “terrible threats in things they cared very little about a year ago.”

It’s worth recalling that the “take back America” formulation was a staple of the Left throughout the Bush presidency. Just google the phrase. Conferences, books, demonstrations were organized around the term and the concept. Howard Dean wrote a book promising to “Win Back America.” All, or nearly all, of the Democratic candidates in 2004 and 2008 used the formulation, if memory serves.

Did all of these left-wingers want their America back because they were anti-white racists? Or was it merely because they rejected the “basic legitimacy of the American system as it exists today”?

During the Bush years protestors carried signs saying “Regime change begins at home” — another common buzz phrase among Bush opponents. I always chalked this up to the fact that they had no idea what they were talking about when they used the word “regime” — which properly describes our basic American system, not merely the president or party in power. Using Waldman’s mode of argumentation, all of those people wanted to throw out the constitutional order along with Bush and Cheney.

I don’t mind people criticizing heated political rhetoric they disagree with, but a little less convenient amnesia would be nice.