John McWhorter has a good and quite controversial essay on the race card and Herman Cain:
The left has been outraged at the Cain campaign’s response, but it also ought to feel a pang of recognition. If the race card is still a viable part of our national discourse in the Obama era, it is so at the behest of liberals—and it’s no less odious or callow when it is played by the left as when it is by the right.
Yes, such claims are generally more cynical, and less coherent, when they are deployed by conservatives. It borders on absurdity that the very conservatives who have harped on the importance of “moving past” racism are defending Cain as a victim of discrimination. In any case, the charges against Cain have become so concrete that it is cartoonish to pretend that racism is truly what is at stake.
But most of the left’s invocations of racism have also, in any objective sense, lost credibility—not because they follow Cain in trying to contradict specific facts, but because they have become so omnipresent and vague as to lose all meaning. Liberals imagine they are fighting the good fight, that they are uncovering truths about the hidden role of racism in the world. But what they have really been doing is making a dogma of racial grievance, one that has been exploited repeatedly by public figures on the left—and was bound to inevitably be deployed by politicians on the right.
McWhorter goes into the attempts to portray the Tea Party and the Obama opposition as racist, pointing out — as I have — that the invective deployed against pasty white Bill Clinton was just a vicious. Anyone remember The Boys on the Tracks? Or the conspiracy theories about the death of Ron Brown? Or the contention that he’d gotten a blow job from a star-struck 19-year-old …
Oh, wait. That last one happened, didn’t it?
I mean, Bill Clinton got impeached, for God’s sake. He was under constant investigation — mostly because he deserved to be under investigation, but at least partly because of politics.
It’s not likely Obama is beyond reproach. A new analysis shows that $16 billion in DOE grants went to companies owned or run by Obama bundlers.
Nor, as McWhorter’s commenters seem to think, is he bashing a straw man. The contention that the fierce opposition to Obama is at least partially motivated by his skin color has been advanced by Michael Moore, Janeane Garofalo, Andrew Sullivan, numerous writers at Daily Kos, Jimmy Carter, Chris Matthews and Morgan Freeman — and that’s just off the top of my head. To be fair, Obama hasn’t invoked the race card, mainly because he’s too smart too. And several people like Donna Brazille, Tim Kaine and Deval Patrick have also refused, also because they’re too smart to. But this is more of a “slime and pivot” maneuver — letting the angry wing of the party screech while you pretend to be above it.
Now, suddenly, they want to back away from that. “Who, us? Play the race card? Pshaw!”
Are the allegations against Cain motivated by race? I don’t think so. The driving force here is that Herman Cain is (or was) the front-runner. And when you become the front-runner, every thing you’ve done, said or breathed on wrong is going to be dragged out into the open, sooner or later. That happens to everyone.