Jonah Goldberg

What if America transcended race, and Barack Obama wasn't invited?

The question comes to mind as cries of racism grow ever louder from Obama's supporters.

No one should be surprised. Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, liberal Democrats have to accuse their opponents of racism. Indeed, somewhat to their credit, fighting racism -- alas, even where it doesn't exist -- is one of the reasons they became liberal Democrats in the first place.

And that's the great irony of the Obama presidency. It was Obama's supporters who hinted, teased, promised or prophesied that Obama would help America "transcend race." But now, it is they who shrink from their own promised land.

After all, it was not Obama's detractors who immediately fell into the comfortable groove of racial grievance and familiar "narratives" when Henry Louis Gates insisted that a police instructor in racial sensitivity had to be a racist. That was Obama and his choir of heralds.

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From day one, Obama's supporters have tirelessly cultivated the idea that anything inconvenient to the first black president just might be terribly, terribly racist.

This was always the nasty side of Obama's implied hope for unity. Obama gave oxygen to the idea that disagreement with him amounted to obstructing his mission to "transcend race." During the campaign, that meant anyone who got in his way was wittingly or unwittingly abetting racism (just ask Bill Clinton). A writer for Slate magazine insisted journalists must not call attention to the fact that Obama is "skinny." Such observations fuel racism by highlighting his physical appearance, and that in turn might suddenly alert racist American voters to the fact that Obama is ... wait for it ... black.

Now that he's president, if you question his tax policies, energy plans or health-care ambitions, you are "hoping he will fail" -- and that, with the help of roundabout reasoning, is tantamount to hoping we cannot transcend race.

Loading the deck in such a way is a gift of Obama's. Time and again, he pre-empts dissent by claiming he's open-minded, pragmatic and non-ideological, and therefore if you disagree with him, you must be some sort of zealot.

His shock troops make the same argument about race, sometimes with sophistication, sometimes with the kind of lucid clarity only profound stupidity can provide. For instance, actress Janeane Garofalo summed up the tea parties thusly: "This is about hating a black man in the White House. This is racism straight up."


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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