I’d honestly rather rip my toenails out than write about this whole “race card” business. I literally cringe when I hear the phrase — what does it even mean? Race card. Race card. Blah, it's stupid. But it’s been annoying me, so I’ve got to make a couple of points before I explode.
What really gets under my skin is how utterly cynical and phony the whole exercise has been. I took Obama’s “dollar bill” statement as a way to deflect criticism with humor. But even if that’s too charitable, there’s precisely zero percent chance that anyone anywhere was actually offended by it. The whole Shrieking Race Card Furies bit is all a show. Who knows, they probably even drafted the talking points back in March and have been waiting for just the right moment.
And look, I understand that demagoguery is part of politics in the age of the 24 hour news cycle — I don’t like it, but that’s part of it. But this particular demagoguery — this cynical phony whining about the “race card” — is uniquely harmful for at least a couple of reasons.
For one, it prevents any actual discussion of race in the campaign (and beyond). I mean, we never really talk about it anyway, other than to confirm such brave controversial positions as “segregation bad,” and “civil rights good.” But we need to move beyond a world where Bull Connor is the only enemy — we need to address our more complex world where the structural legacies of racism are arguably a bigger problem than actual racism proper. But crap like this chills any discussion of race — do you think that Barack Obama is going to touch race with a ten-foot pole this fall? No way. Can’t risk offending the delicate sensibilities of all the delicate flowers out there.
But the bigger problem here is that the Race Card Chorus plays on white resentment — which remains a poisonous brew. I’m a child of the rural South. But you know what? Actual racism is a lot less common there — we have a ways to go, but there has been real progress on that front.
The more serious problem is white resentment. A lot of white people honestly think they have been significantly deprived of various things because of minorities. And it’s hard to overstate how deeply these feelings run. It’s not so much animosity toward people who are different — it’s the animosity of the aggrieved. They feel like they are the victims.
That’s why race is a losing issue for Obama — it’s not so much that people are racist, but that they feel they are being punished because they’re white (yes, I know how completely absurd this must sound to the black community).
And so this whole “race card” business feeds these flames (quite consciously, I think). Whether this intended act should be called “racist”, well, I care less about the linguistic labels. We need new words anyway.
But what I do know is that the race card stuff consciously feeds white resentment. When tireless civil rights hero Rick Davis says how outraged he is about the “race card,” it’s intended to reinforce the view (among some white people) that they are punished because some evil minority will claim “racism” when they shouldn’t. If it weren’t for this frightening monster ready to cry "racism" at the drop of a hat, then their children would get into Harvard, or they’d already be promoted, or their kids would get better financial aid, or they’d pay less taxes, or whatever.
Rather than try to overcome this division, the honorable John McCain is stoking the fires. And I think that gives you a pretty decent indication of what a McCain presidency will look like. When he’s on a Sunday talk show in an off-year, it’s all peaches and sunshine and bbq. But when he actually has to fight for something, his instincts are to go the full nasty. It’s going to be another presidency based on poisonous polarization and fire-stoking. Plus, Joe Lieberman. Yum-yum.