Denouncing conservatives as racists whenever they’re effective arguing the right side of an issue has been a staple tactic on the left for decades. We expect the left to trot out the ghost of Bull Conner (a life-long Democrat by the way) and other prominent bigots who played a role in fighting civil rights during the 60’s whenever conservative ideas take root among the populace. Yet, while we know from painful experience that the leftist rank and file, their financial backers and their allies in the old media, will play the race card at the drop of a hat, it’s reasonable to expect that the President of the United States of America and his cabinet will remain above such tawdry tactics. Sadly, this week provides further evidence that Barack Obama and his key advisors won’t hesitate to hide behind the politics of race if they believe they can make the issue work to their advantage.
A little over two years ago, the election of Barack Obama was hailed as a milestone in American history. Obama was our first “post-racial” president – proof that all Americans of every color had gotten beyond pigmentation and were finally focused on policies and principles. We celebrated that moment. The candidate who lost the election, a hero of the Vietnam war who was the object of unimaginable abuse by the new president’s supporters, nonetheless took the time to recognize the significance of this election and to congratulate the new president in the warmest possible terms. For a brief moment, left and right agreed about something: race was no longer a significant factor in American politics.
The left was able to put racial politics in the rear-view mirror for less than a year, which corresponds to the length of time that it took for the electorate’s honeymoon with President Obama to end. After that, the left decided that anybody who objected to the president’s policies was really upset about the color of skin, no matter how articulate their arguments might seem. New evidence suggests that Barack Obama himself, and Attorney General Eric Holder, agree with that assessment.
USA Today writer Kenneth T. Walsh’s recently released book, Family of Freedom: Presidents and African Americans in the White House, is a study of the influence that African Americans have had in the Executive Branch throughout our history. His observations regarding the Obama administration are particularly revealing:
“In May 2010, he (President Obama) told guests at a private White House dinner that race was probably a key component in the rising opposition to his presidency from conservatives, especially right-wing activists in the anti-incumbent “Tea Party” movement that was then surging across the country. Many middle-class and working-class whites felt aggrieved and resentful that the federal government was helping other groups, including bankers, automakers, irresponsible people who had defaulted on their mortgages, and the poor, but wasn’t helping them nearly enough, he said.
A guest suggested that when Tea Party activists said they wanted to “take back” their country, their real motivation was to stir up anger and anxiety at having a black president, and Obama didn’t dispute the idea. He agreed that there was a “subterranean agenda” in the anti-Obama movement—a racially biased one—that was unfortunate. But he sadly conceded that there was little he could do about it.”
Walsh thus exposed a fundamental misunderstanding of the Tea Party movement that could only happen when one views this uniquely American grass-roots phenomenon through racially colored glasses. Tea Partiers were not and are not upset because they’re unable to grab a piece of the big government pie. Instead, the fundamental problem that Tea Partiers have with the big government programs that Obama has foisted on America is that they exist in the first place. Tea Partiers don’t want to get in line for government handouts alongside “bankers, automakers, irresponsible people who had defaulted on their mortgages, and the poor” – they want the handouts to stop altogether. They don’t want government to redistribute income, they want government to get the heck out the way of the free enterprise system. The left is genetically unable to grasp the differences between these two points of view. To them, if you’re opposed to big government giveaways, then you must irrationally hate the people who are formulating those benevolent programs and – since the head of the government happens to be an African-American – you are therefore a racist.
Attorney General Holder‘s comments regarding the New Black Panthers case were even more offensive. On Tuesday, Holder’s anger boiled over as he testified before the House Appropriations subcommittee about the case, in which members of the New Black Panthers wielding weapons and wearing military garb were caught on video intimidating voters in Philadelphia during the 2008 election. Many believe that Holder’s Justice Department have gone easy on the caused because they happen to be African-Americans who supported Barack Obama. Legendary Democratic civil rights activist Bartle Bull took offense over the New Black Panthers case, calling it the most serious incident of voter intimidation that he had ever witnessed. Holder bristled at that claim, wasting no time in tossing Bull under the bus:
“Think about that,” Holder said. “When you compare what people endured in the South in the 60s to try to get the right to vote for African Americans, and to compare what people were subjected to there to what happened in Philadelphia—which was inappropriate, certainly that…to describe it in those terms I think does a great disservice to people who put their lives on the line, who risked all, for my people.”
In the first place, it’s obvious that a post-racial Attorney General who holds an important cabinet post in a post-racial administration shouldn’t describe “my people” as those who skin is shaded more closely to his, but as the people he was indirectly elected to represent: the American people, whatever their race, creed or color. Moreover, it’s clear that Holder didn’t actually digest what Bartle Bull had to say. Here are Bartle Bulls remarks, in more detail:
“On May 15 Obama’s Department of Justice quashed a civil rights case involving voter intimidation by blacks in Philadelphia on election day, 2008. As New York chairman of Democrats for McCain, I had gone to Philadelphia on election day to work as a volunteer at polling places. An old hand at election work, I had been Robert Kennedy’s New York campaign manager in 1968, had worked for Charles Evers when he ran for governor of Mississippi in 1971, and had worked in South Carolina against Strom Thurmond in 1978. In Mississippi I had stopped the voting in the towns of Red Lick and Midnight and made them remove nooses that were hanging from tree branches outside the polling places. But never until I went to Philadelphia on November 4 had I seen a man with a weapon blocking the entrance to a polling place.”
Eric Holder, like his boss Barack Obama, is trying to take advantage of the prejudice that prevailed fifty years ago, in order to make those themes meaningful to their supports in 2011. It’s a different world today, and most of us know that. The left is loathe to acknowledge that fact, but the press of events and history makes it harder and harder for them to deny reality.