"Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America; there's the United States of America. There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America."
That was state Sen. Barack Obama in his keynote address to the 2004 Democratic convention. His rejection of tribal politics, his stirring call to national unity, vaulted him into the Senate and was the first step on the path that took him to the White House.
Well, that was then, but now is now.
According to The Washington Post, Obama's 2012 campaign is today busily subdividing the nation into racial, ethnic and religious enclaves for targeted appeals to find a "narrow path to victory."
Setting one tribe against another, one faction against another, divide and conquer, is among the oldest tactics of politics and war.
The Obama campaign headquarters calls its divide-and-conquer strategy "Operation Vote." Reporter Peter Wallsten describes it:
"Operation Vote will function as a large, centralized department in the Chicago campaign office for reaching ethnic, religious and other voter groups. It will coordinate recruitment of an ethnic volunteer base and push out targeted messages online and through the media to different groups, such as blacks, Hispanics, Jews, women, seniors, young people, gays and Asian Americans."
This is tribal politics, pure and simple. Hire blacks, Hispanics, Jews and gays to appeal to and advance the interests of blacks, Hispanics, Jews and gays. And what happens then to the national interest?
Conspicuously absent from this racial-ethnic-religious targeting is America's majority, white Christians, who are still 60 percent of the nation. Why no outreach to them? Have they been written off?
Obama got 43 percent of the white vote in 2008, a higher share than either John Kerry or Al Gore. But his approval rating among whites has fallen to less than a third; even lower among working-class whites.
If these folks have come to believe Obama has relegated them to the back of the bus, does not Operation Vote confirm it?
And if targeted appeals to race, ethnicity, religion, gender and sexual orientation is the Obama strategy, 2012 will be among the most divisive elections in U.S. history.