Mary Katharine Ham

This week, the political world is on fire with the news that the first tolerably clean, well-spoken, and non-threatening black man ever has stormed onto the American political stage, poised to take his rightful spot at the head of the pack of Democratic presidential hopefuls. Or so Joe Biden tells us.

"I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that's a storybook, man," said fellow '08 hopeful Sen. Joe Biden this week.

Others think the revolution had already begun. To many, candidates such as Harold Ford, Jr., in Tennessee and Michael Steele in Maryland -- both of whom vied smartly and competitively for U.S. Senate seats in 2006 -- looked sufficiently showered and sounded sufficiently schooled.

For instance, "Hardball's" Chris Matthews had these words of high praise for Michael Steele's ad campaign:

"I love the ads, my wife loves the ads, they're really funny, some of them. And very unthreatening. An African-American guy, it seems, has to run an ad that's so unthreatening that he's almost child-like in his presentation, but it seems to be working," he said in October 2006.

Question. Why is it always liberals who seem so genuinely, overtly surprised when black candidates are viable candidates, and in their surprise, evoke old, damaging stereotypes about them? If you'll excuse a Bushism, I think it's because much of their political philosophy and existence depends upon misunderestimating minorities.

Minorities are getting lower grades than other students. Lower the standards! Minorities aren't getting into colleges at the same rates as other students. Give them special race-based admissions programs! Minorities need help. Give them expensive social programs of questionable efficacy!

The liberal solution to these problems has never been one that grants minorities the dignity of achieving success. In fact, it assumes they are incapable of achieving it without extensive help from liberal government programs. When you come from the school of pat-on-the-head public policy for minorities -- as Joe Biden does -- I guess maybe it is astonishing that a black man could be outstripping you in your run for president.

Mary Katharine Ham

Mary Katharine Ham is editor-at-large of, a contributor to Townhall Magazine.

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