These aren't merely isolated assaults from fringe kooks. Recently, Bill Clinton said in a speech that Republicans had succeeded in depicting Democrats as "weak elitists who couldn't be trusted to defend their country, couldn't be trusted with tax money, didn't believe in work, wanted to give all the money to poor people and people of color."
Don't miss Clinton's gratuitous racial reference there. Why did he add, "people of color," if not to fan the flames of suspicion among some in the black community that Republicans are prejudiced toward them?
But a more disturbing utterance along these lines came from Senator Kerry. He told a largely minority audience recently that many voters "were harassed and intimidated in going to the polls, something we thought was resolved in the 1960s," an unmistakable reference to earlier claims that Republicans systematically tried to prevent blacks from voting in Florida (and elsewhere).
Of course, if such a thing had actually occurred, it would be undeniably evil and would deserve the strongest condemnation. But I've never believed for a second that Republicans were behind such dirty tricks. And I don't believe for a second that Al Gore's henchman believed it either.
It was all part of an orchestrated plan to pull anything out of their hat to undo the Florida election results. As Peter Kirsanow wrote in National Review Online, "Even before the last vote had been cast in the 2000 presidential election, activists had descended upon Florida, claiming a widespread conspiracy to disenfranchise black voters ... There's absolutely no evidence that a single person was intimidated, harassed, or prevented from voting by Florida law enforcement."
It is the worst kind of demagogic lie to charge that conservatives are racists. Those who make the claim -- not necessarily those who are innocently duped by it -- are themselves responsible for untold damage to race relations and our societal health in general.
My hope is that one day the fog from this shameless racial exploitation will clear and more people will understand that conservatism demands that all people be treated equally regardless of race and views blacks through a colorblind lens rather than as a block of voters to manipulate.