In the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Salena Zito looks at the increasing frequency with which the Left plays the race card -accusing opponents of racism, denying that they could have any legitimate grievance- and sees it losing its force as it becomes overplayed:
Racism isn’t what it used to be. Back in the day, it was horrible in-your-face humiliation hurled for reasons that included fear, insecurity, hate or an utter lack of decency.
Today, the word “racism” is used so flippantly in politics that its true heinous intent often is diluted.
Race has taken political center-stage once more with generalizations that all people who participate in tea party events are racists because they oppose President Barack Obama’s policies.
Racism also often is cited by Washington insiders as the reason for the downward trajectory of Obama’s public approval.
Yet racism has nothing to do with Obama’s falling numbers — or, for that matter, those of Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, who also is black.
Both men were given the benefit of the doubt when elected to their positions. Only now, after having an opportunity to witness their behavior and performance, have people decided they don’t approve of the jobs Obama and Steele are doing.
Racists never would have given either man an opportunity to begin with. Americans’ dissatisfaction with both men and their performance has more to do with these individuals than with their skin color.
The real story for both Obama and Steele is the same as that for many high-profile (and usually white) politicians. They began with high expectations and then their approval ratings fell over time, as people got to know them.
Zito then compares the rise, fall, and rise-again of Howard Dean and sees him receiving the same treatment, even though he’s White. She rightly points out that both Obama and Steele might also have benefited by a race card being played in their favor. And she notes the boomerang effect of playing it against average Americans, many of whom are becoming politically active in the Tea Party movement, who are feeling ever more condescended to and even insulted for opposing Obama on grounds of policy and performance.
The increasing use of the race card reveals two things: first, that it’s the Left that obsesses over race and the need to see everyone as part of groups, rather than as individuals concerned with principles. As Shelby Steele points out in White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era, racism on the Right was largely burned out when it became socially unacceptable to be racist during the civil rights era. The liberal Left, on the other hand, adopted a form of racial group-think to absolve itself of “White guilt,” atonement for which requires one to explain everything in terms of race and racism.
Second, and perhaps more immediate, the progressive-statists know instinctively that the American people largely reject their preferred policies. Barack Obama ran as a post-partisan, above-all-politics moderate, and the electorate, tired of years of snarling partisanship under Clinton and Bush, hired him to put all that to rest. Then he dropped the mask and, in conjunction with the progressives who dominate the Democratic Party in Congress, has governed as a hyper-partisan Leftist. I’m convinced that, had the public in 2008 known the truth about what Obama and his allies intended if they came to power, then the Democratic ticket wouldn’t have garnered 30% of the vote. (That Obama got away with this is largely the tale of a media that abdicated its responsibilities shamelessly in order to promote Obama, but that’s another story.)
Faced with the reality of a growing rejection, the Left more and more has dealt the race card to smear and intimidate citizens exercising their rights as citizens. But the plain fact is that the opposition that’s arisen is in response to policy and incompetence, and the opponents largely don’t give a damn about anyone’s skin color.
The race card may be the only card left in the progressive’s deck, but it’s hardly a trump anymore.