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.

It's not the first time Biden has misspoken where race politics are concerned. If you search his name on YouTube, as many voters will do in the run-up to the '08 election, you'll find this comment from July 2006:

"In Delaware, the largest growth of population is Indian Americans, moving from India. You cannot go to a 7/11 or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I'm not joking," he said to an Indian-American supporter.

And, this lesser-known but more bizarre comment on the reasons he can win a primary in South Carolina:

"You don't know my state. My state was a slave state. My state is a border state. My state has the eighth-largest black population in the country. My state is anything from a Northeast liberal state," Biden said.

Now first, there's the issue of the racial double standard. Had a Republican said any one of these three obviously racially tinged comments -- all arguably offensive -- we would all have to go through a national "teaching moment" of at least several news cycles about the dark, underlying racism they revealed about our society. There would be a "need for dialogue" and white-guilt drum circles and candlelight vigils and Al Sharpton press conferences, all to bemoan the fact that we have such racist, ignorant, white Republicans living in our midst.

For Republicans, it doesn't even take a real racial slur to spur such a national reaction and ruin a career. A sorta-kinda made-up word that sorta-kinda sounds like a racial slur for dark-skinned people will do. As long as you're a white Southern Republican, that sorta-kinda slur will earn you more than 150 references in The Washington Post.

If you're a Republican, it takes only the suggestion of a very un-jungly-sounding timpani drum beat in the background of a radio ad about a black candidate or the mere casting of a white woman in a TV ad to set off the liberal elites' hyper-sensitive racism alarms.

It seems to me liberals beholdest the mote, but considerest not the beam, if you know what I'm saying. They beholdest the "macaca," but considerest not the "clean black man." They beholdest the "jungle drums," but considerest not the affinity for blackface in the liberal blogosphere. Biden alone has enough beams in one eye to keep Jimmy Carter's favorite charity afloat (add Jimmy's recent unkind outbursts about Jewish people, and you've got a veritable lumberyard).

When Biden was asked how he could win a Southern state as a Northeastern liberal, he touted his state's credentials as a bona fide "slave state." When liberal politicos heard drums behind a black candidate's name, their minds immediately jumped to "jungle savage." When lauding black, male candidates, liberals called them "articulate" and "child-like."

When it comes to race, liberal policy and attitudes are stuck in a very antiquated, condescending pattern. Minorities must be helpless victims in order to need extensive help from liberals, so liberals spend time finding ways in which minorities can be constantly portrayed as helpless victims in order to justify inefficient social programs that create more victims than they help, which in turn ensures more Democrats are re-elected. After a while, liberals can forget minorities aren't helpless, as they've been making them out to be.

Is it any wonder that they're surprised by the good hygiene of their latest African-American star?


Mary Katharine Ham

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

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