The very basis of Barack Obama's entire political career has been the assertion that he is one of the first examples of a post-racial politician. He consciously eschewed the notion that his presidency was notable for the triumph of a black politician and focused, instead, on what it said about the irrelevance of race to the political process.
When the Clintons sought to inject race into the election by harping on the polarization of black support for Obama and likening his triumph in the South Carolina primary to that of Jesse Jackson, the Obama supporters cried foul and accused the former first couple of injecting race into the contest.
Now, Obama is letting his supporters strip away his image of a post-racial president by their increasingly racial rhetoric and his support for radical black activists.
Attorney General Eric Holder's refusal to prosecute the New Black Panthers so obviously guilty of racial intimidation at the Philadelphia polling places in 2008 is of a piece with the NAACP's loud denunciation of the tea party movement as racists, likening it to the White Citizens Councils of the segregationist past. And the Obama administration's decision to sue to overturn the Arizona immigration law -- despite the fact that Americans approve of the statute, and disapprove of the lawsuit to void it, by 59 percent to 28 percent -- is an attempt to foundation his appeal to Latino voters in racial terms.
Already, the results of this disastrous strategy are apparent. The latest FoxNews/Opinion Dynamics survey shows that his job approval among Democrats has fallen from 84 percent two weeks ago to a mere 76 percent today. This fall has led to a drop in his overall approval from 47 percent at the end of June to 43 percent in the middle of July.
But the political implications of Obama's lurch to the left and his efforts to polarize his administration racially are only part of the problem. Obama, as president of the United States, is increasingly taking sides in the old racial debates, reigniting them and lending new fuel to their flames. He is no more the president of all the people, but is retreating into the racial cocoon of a supportive minority vote.
Obama's strategists must reason that it was only the minority vote that elected him in 2008. His share of the white vote was the same as Sen. John Kerry won in 2004. To be sure, Obama got more young whites to compensate for defections among older whites, but the total of his white support was the same as the Democrats won in 2004. It was the higher turnout and greater Democratic margins among African Americans and Latinos that led to Obama's triumph. Now, he is seeking to rev-up the enthusiasm among minorities to repeat that success in 2010.
It is dismaying to see a president whose rhetoric reflected racial progress to let his attorney general and his supporters play the race card in his bid to keep control of Congress. Dismaying and dumb.