President-elect Barack Obama hasn’t taken office yet, and I already feel gypped.
Now, it’s not as though I expected much. I didn’t expect Obama to know what to do about the economy; Obama’s knee-jerk Keynesianism and allegiance to the disproved New Deal mythology ensure that he will try the Big Government solution, even when Big Government is the problem. I didn’t expect Obama to solve the problem of Iranian militancy; Obama’s knee-jerk reliance on diplomacy means that he won’t confront the mullahs until it is too late to do anything about their nuclear program. I didn’t expect Obama to stand true to traditional principles surrounding religion and marriage; Obama’s Rick Warren pick was a ruse, a throwaway to the American right.
But I expected something else: the end of ridiculous charges of widespread American racism.
Obama was never foolish enough to admit that America is not a racist country. After all, that would have undermined his own claim to the presidency, which was based on the notion that Americans could disprove their racism by electing him.
Instead, Obama’s campaign -- and his supporters in the media -- promised us that his election to the White House would start a new era in America’s racial history. Obama’s imagery and his rhetoric suggested that his elevation to the presidency would cap the promise of Lincoln and the dream of Martin Luther King. “… we have a choice in this country,” Obama told us during the campaign. “We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle … Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, ‘Not this time.’”
In the aftermath of the election, the press celebrated Obama’s victory with headlines trumpeting his race. “Obama Elected President as Racial Barrier Falls,” shouted the New York Times. “Barack Obama Wins Presidency … Democrat Earns Historic Victory,” blared CBSNews.com. “Barack Obama wins presidency, making history,” sobbed the Los Angeles Times. Pictures of weeping black Americans filled television screens. Black commentators explained that Obama’s victory made them feel that their children could now do anything in America.
We had our “transcendent post-racial moment.” We “proved” that we weren’t racists.
And now the race machine is cranking back up.