Tests and Non-Tests

In the next two months, you will be told, in so many words, that this election is a test: a test of the electorate’s virtue or villainy, its innocence or guilt, its non-racism or racism. So it was in 2008. There was a piece by the editor of Slate magazine. Its title was “If Obama Loses.” Its subtitle was “Racism is the only reason McCain might beat him.”

If Obama wins, America is innocent. If McCain wins, it’s guilty. Period.

Remember something, though: An election is a test only if there is a black candidate who’s also a liberal Democrat. If there is a black candidate who’s a conservative Republican, all bets are off. The election is not a test.

I like to use the example of 2006. Michael Steele was a Republican nominee in Maryland, Lynn Swann was a Republican nominee in Pennsylvania, and Ken Blackwell was a Republican nominee in Ohio. All of them were black conservatives, and all of them ran against garden-variety white liberals. No one said those elections were tests. They were simple elections between Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals — just the way elections should be.

On the relevant Tuesday, all three liberals won — and no one said the voters of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Ohio were guilty.

In my home state of Michigan, the Republican nominee for governor in 1986 was Bill Lucas — a black man born in Harlem. He was beaten by a garden-variety white liberal named Jim Blanchard. Ho-hum.

A few years later, though, the Democrats had a gubernatorial nominee in Virginia named Doug Wilder. And everyone said, for months, “He would be the first black governor since Reconstruction. He would be the first black governor since Reconstruction. Excitement, excitement, excitement!” I couldn’t help thinking, “No one said, in 1986, that Lucas would be the first black governor since Reconstruction” — which he would have been.

It was said that the election in which Wilder was involved was a test of the Virginia electorate: Were they mature enough, and enlightened enough, to elect a black man governor? Funny, but no one — no one — said the Michigan election was a test of the maturity or enlightenment of Michigan voters.

So, remember the rule: An election is a test only if there’s a black candidate and he’s on the left. If there’s a black candidate and he’s on the right — forget it. You can vote against him guilt-free.

What a country, huh?

P.S. It would have been so much better for the country, I think, if the first black president had been a conservative. The “culture” — the media culture, the academic culture, the Hollywood culture — would not have treated him as black. He would have been nothing but a right-winger, to be opposed and defeated. There would have been no racial Sturm und Drang. (What a happy thought.)

P.P.S. Put yourself in the position of a Republican born in 1930 or so. (Maybe you are in such a position.) You voted against Stevenson, against Stevenson again, against JFK, against LBJ, against Humphrey, against McGovern, against Carter, against Carter again, against Mondale, against Dukakis, against Clinton, against Clinton again, against Gore, against Kerry . . . and all of a sudden you’re a racist? But you had been voting against Democrats all your life! You did not start with Obama! Still: guilty. (But then, you always were, right?)