The Corner

The Obama Candidacy: Not Transcending—But Descending Into—Race

Recently a new sophistry has appeared in which Obama supporters explain why their hope-and-change, racially transcendent candidate seems to be winning 90% of the African-American electorate against a very liberal white woman, married to someone, we were once told, who was the first “black” President: the African-American community is not voting along racial lines per se since they would surely not be doing this with a Clarence Thomas or Condoleeza Rice candidacy.

But that exegesis proves the opposite of what is intended. A Colin Powell or Rice, as in the case of a Michael Steele, would run on the principle that race while relevant to some and impossible to forget, was irrelevant to questions of their own competency and agenda–and therefore they would not appeal to those to whom some sort of racial consideration is essential.

In other words, one dividend of the Obama campaign is the new reality that neither a white liberal like Hillary nor a black conservative would garner such an amazing majority—only an African-American messianic candidate who (1) can use his race to by design resonate authenticity with the community, and (2) champion an agenda that would ensure that race–and more importantly grievances and their accompanying reparations and remediations—are always essential never incidental within the identity politics of the day. Hillary fails on (1), and African-American moderates and conservatives would fail on (2).

Much of the tragedy of the Obama campaign is how ever so steadily, incrementally its theme has devolved into a racialist message: the ubiquitous use of “they” who always in some way are to be faulted for an array of sins against the Obamas, from losing Pennsylvania to raising the bar on Michelle to such a degree as not to warrant pride in her country; the now serial snideness about what Obama called “a typical white person” and amplified with his remarks about Middle America’s superstitious clinging to guns and church, its xenophobia and bigotry, and now most lately with the Axelrod dismissal of the need to appeal to the natural constituency of the “white working class” (e.g. ‘this is not new that Democratic candidates don’t rely solely on those votes.”)—all of that superimposed on a landscape of a Rev. Wright’s blanket hatred against “rich white people,” Italians, Israelis, et. al.

I say “devolved,” but in truth the campaign from the beginning had these elements within it; all that is changed is that the media at last has given Obama some scrutiny (much to furor of the liberal left who cannibalized their own at ABC News for asking routine questions), and that critics no longer fear the tired charge of “racist” in asking perfectly legitimate questions of their possible next President.

If this continues, the worry is not that a large portion of the “white working class” will defect to McCain, but that a large portion of Democrats who counted on incorporating the “white working class” will as well.

Victor Davis Hanson — NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won.

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