Another Perspective

Playing the Race Card—Again

When all else fails, play the race card.

By 11.18.13

Another stupid media controversy, this one touched off by a characteristically stupid column by the Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, not known for the density of his gray matter, gave the capital press establishment their equivalent of “professional development” days in public schools, wherein the kids get the day off and the adults (if it is the word) eat donuts while talking about their “issues.” The Post man, sort of the epitome of what used to be called bleeding-heart liberals, suggested “conventional” Americans “gag” when they see an inter-racial couple. He was supposed to be writing about the new mayor of New York and his wife. In fact, he was writing about himself and his ilk. The Washington media went into navel-contemplation exercises for several days following and revealed the startling fact that they have no knowledge of, or interest in, what conventional Americans think about inter-racial marriage, or any thing else, which in itself is scarcely more than a dog and man story.

Personally, me, I think people play the race card, which is what this is, when they are at loss for arguments or feel cornered. Playing the race card is rather like the old playground idiom, “Aw shuddup.” The President, for example, is politically in a weak position: failed or failing neo-Keynesian economic policies that are doing little or nothing to relieve our structural faults; confused or incoherent foreign policies that are endangering our, and our friends’, security, with the “lesson of Munich,” cardinal tenet of American foreign policy for over half a century, cast aside, notably in the case of Iran’s progress toward achieving the status of terror-sponsoring nuclear-armed rogue-state status; underlying it all, a promotion of whining, entitled, victimist, mood that undercuts the nation’s morale, softens its psyche, denigrates manly men, massively redistributes income to a federal nomenklatura.

When all this fails and signs begin to appear that the fool-enough-of-the-people period is about over — and note that it is by no means clear it has failed in political terms, or why are these nomenklaturists still in power and their allies in the media still in business? — you  play the race card. Make unfounded unresearched unverified statements based on zero reporting that large swathes (how large?) of Americans are “racist.” Use or rather misuse of anecdotal events — tragic in some cases, like a fatal shooting, merely embarrassing in others, like a true-false shoplifting in a retail outlet, but always incompletely reported and usually, in fact, missing critical elements — to make sweeping generalizations becomes an accepted and even ordinary part of the game.

What all this really shows, however, is that the people who have race on the brain are the race arsonists, the Sonny Carsons and the Al Sharptons  and the independent minds who get their cues from them. The concern of more consequential observers is that it if the new mayor of America’s greatest city produces, as he will if he follows his own promises, an urban failure reminiscent of the years between the elections of John Lindsay and Rudolph Giuliani, the chorus will blame it on putative race obsessions among “conventional” Americans.

If critics of the president blame him for serial policy failures, it will be the fault of not-yet-dead generations of white racists who cannot give a black president the respect he deserves. This is silly — but it is also alarming, to the degree it reveals an incorrigible ignorance of American history and a no less incorrigible leap-to-victimization. It would turn us, it is turning us, into a nation of whiners except that there seems to be a rule that the whining can only be by, or on behalf of, certain groups. What effect is this likely to have on the excluded groups? Turn them into sheep? Or raving bulls? Or both?

It is foolish and demagogic to get into shouting matches about who is the bigger victim or descendant of victims, just as it is undignified to claim a president is hated on account of who he is not what he does. The level of “disrespect” that President Obama has incurred is paltry compared to the abuse Harry Truman endured. For that matter, his secretary of state, Dean Acheson, was attacked and reviled with viciousness that makes our mild poking at the current foreign policy boss, Sen. Kerry, tame by comparison. Calling him Jean-François Kerry, as Mr. Tyrrell is inclined to do, or even Vichy Kerry, as the more acerbic and excitable Mr. Babbin favors, is merely fact-based sarcasm.

Which is redundant, note, because you cannot have sarcasm without fact; but it scarcely helps to say this because our Washington herd of independents are not interested in facts and take themselves too seriously, to avoid taking sarcasm literally. Observe, in this regard, that Truman and Acheson were far more dignified and correct than our current generation of leaders. Our president today does all he can to avoid responsibility, going so far as to blame the government for the failure of his government. That must be some sort of first. When Reagan blamed government, he took responsibility and said his job was to reduce government and improve the parts that remained.

Anyway, with regard to fact-based sarcasm, Mr. Tyrrell’s references to Jean-François Kerry are brought on by the senator’s undisguised relish for things French. Mr. Kerry is a Francophile. That is fact. Mr. Babbin calls him Vichy Kerry because he fears — and Mr. Babbin knows foreign policy history — our foreign policy leader is taking us down Appeasement Road. Mr. Babbin is trying to reverse the retreat from the lessons of Munich, and damn right, but it is not certain Mr. Kerry, or his defenders amongst the independent-mind crowd, would understand the issue, let alone the Vichy metaphor.

However, the idea that the Mr. Obama is treated more roughly by his opponents than Mr. Truman was is laughable. The partisans of the Obama-critics-are-racists-and-haters school are out of line and off the wall, both. They are off the wall because they do not know what they are talking about, and they are out of line because they are participating in a vast left-wing conspiracy to muzzle free speech and extinguish political, and policy, debate. They should mind that doing this is a sure fire way to kill liberty. And those critically inclined should up the stakes, not by descending into thoughtless generalities but by deepening their arguments.

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About the Author

Roger Kaplan, a Washington-based writer, covers the Middle East and Africa (and tennis) for The American Spectator.