I am rarely accused of excessive optimism, so when such an occasion transpires I like to step back and take a look at the situation to make sure that I am not, in fact, being unduly positive. The current insinuation of credulousness on my part concerns this op-ed from the Wall Street Journal , which posits that President Obama is dividing the country on racial lines and has been ever since he suggested that the arrest of a black man for trying to enter his own home might not have been a good idea, and this interview with Jeffrey Lord, who has complained that Shirley Sherrod and Democrats in general are devaluing the word “lynching” by not using it exclusively to refer to black people executed with a rope.
Here’s where the charge that I’m wearing rose-colored glasses comes in: A friend, rightly horrified by both of these pieces, remarked that she didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. My response was that the offense was even worse than it seemed, because the proponents of these pieces were not themselves racists, they were merely race-baiters, which I think is a necessary distinction to make. My friend said that I was being naive, but am I? Could Pat Caddell and Doug Schoen really be so appallingly ignorant as to believe that Barack Obama, who has spent most of his time in office hoping that people forget he’s black, is cynically playing the race card? Of course not. Even the densest of our privileged white punditocracy aren’t as shit-all stupid as to believe that. Caddell and Schoen are marketing themselves, and they understand that nothing sells better to a certain segment of the population as former members of the Democratic establishment who have somehow “seen the light,” which is apparently emanating from a lantern held up by a tricky black guy who wants to bash white people over the head with it. They’re not racists, they’re race hucksters, peddling ignorance and fear to people who are scared and uncertain and don’t have a lot of time to look at the full details of the forces arrayed against them. They’re like Andrew Breitbart, really: They don’t actually dislike black people, they’re just scumbags who are willing to gin up hatred against black people so that they can advance their own careers and causes. It’s one of the oldest rackets in America.
Jeffrey Lord, on the other hand… well, my friend is probably right. Because there are people who can be that doltish. They’re called racists.