Jonah Goldberg

Rush assembled more than 60 black ministers Sunday to rally around Burris at a Chicago church. "We are just faced with a hard-headed room of people in the Senate who want to keep an African-American out of the Senate," Rush said. He condemned the Senate, where until recently Barack Obama served before becoming president of the United States, as "the last bastion of plantation politics."

And that was all she wrote for Reid, who by next week should be on all fours like Kevin Bacon in "Animal House," shouting, "Thank you sir! May I have another?" as Burris paddles him.

Now, I certainly understand why Reid & Co. caved. For starters, Reid's not exactly the brightest crayon in the box.

But why all the fuss in the first place? Isn't this how it always works? The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates, an impressive African-American writer, is amazed that "Reid has been outmaneuvered by the sort of overt, hamfisted identity politics deployed in the '70s."

The '70s? So this sort of thing stopped more than three decades ago? I had no idea. What planet do my newscasts come from?

I thought this was simply what liberals and Democrats do. When Newt Gingrich introduced the Contract with America, black Democrats denounced it as racist. Charlie Rangel proclaimed, "Hitler wasn't even talking about doing these things." When impeachment threatened Bill Clinton, he draped himself in black ministers and staffers. The NAACP ran an ad narrated by the daughter of James Byrd, a black man brutally murdered in a hate crime, insinuating that then-presidential candidate George W. Bush's refusal to support hate-crime legislation in Texas was like murdering her father again. In the recent campaign, nearly the entire liberal punditocracy insisted that opposition to Barack Obama could only be explained by racism, a story line egged on by Obama himself when convenient.

And don't tell me Blago's corruption changes the equation. Has anyone read about the baleful history of minority set-aside programs in cities like Chicago? Cronies and grifters are routinely given sweetheart contracts under the guise of fighting discrimination when in reality it's all a riot of kickbacks, "pay-to-play" and cronyism. People don't call Jesse Jackson a shakedown artist for nothing.

There are two reasons why this spectacle shocks some liberals. The first is that Blago, Burris and Rush used this tactic on fellow Democrats. And since Democrats can't be motivated by racism, any ploy like this must be cynical. When the same gambit is used on Republicans, it's called "speaking truth to power." Second, some honestly believed that Obama represented a real change of the racial landscape. So far, alas, these folks just look naive.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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