"All is race," wrote Benjamin Disraeli, "there is no other truth."
What Disraeli meant by race is what Winston Churchill meant when he spoke of "our island race" -- a tribe, an ethnic group, a people unique and separate from all others.
Disraeli saw the Irish in Britain as a breed apart, an alien race:
"This wild, reckless, indolent, uncertain and superstitious race have no sympathy with the English character. Their ideal of human felicity is an alternation of clannish broils and coarse idolatry (i.e., Catholicism). Their history describes an unbroken circuitry of bigotry and blood."
And whose bigotry was on display here?
Recently, this writer cited a Foreign Affairs article titled, "Us and Them: The Enduring Power of Ethnic Nationalism." Professor Jerry Muller therein described what happened to Europe in the 20th century as the violent and bloody parturition of all the multi-ethnic nations and empires into homogeneous states where each "race" at last had its own country to secure its own separate and privileged existence and tribal interests.
Only then did peace come to the Old Continent.
The process may not be at an end. Serbs in Bosnia and Kosovo wish to be with their kinsmen. Scots want out of Britain. Catalan and Basque seek independence from Spain. Flemish and Walloon are suing for divorce in Belgium.
This tribalism is now bedeviling America and the presidential politics of this diverse nation, and roiling its most diverse party.
The dominant minorities in the Democratic coalition are blacks, Hispanics and Jews. Though Obama began this campaign with under half of the black vote, African-Americans are now voting close to 90 percent for him. Dixiecrats called that the bloc vote. Ex-Goldwater Girl Hillary is now getting Goldwater's share of that vote.
African-Americans are rejecting the wife of our "first black president" -- for the real thing.
And though Latinos are similar in educational levels, incomes and political orientation to blacks, they seem as resistant to Barack's candidacy as white working men.And where race and ethnic wedge-driving was thought to be the province of the Lee Atwater School of Republican Politics, liberals have shown themselves more than adept.
"I like the fact that his name is Barack Hussein Obama, and that his father was a Muslim," said ex-Sen. Bob Kerrey, a Hillary backer, in Iowa. "I think it is a tremendous asset for him ... that he spent a little bit of time in a secular madrassa."
The day of South Carolina, Bill Clinton volunteered, "Jesse Jackson won South Carolina in '84 and '88. ... Ran a good campaign." And what do Jesse and Barack have in common?
Portside columnist Richard Cohen was first to raise the issue of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Barack's spiritual mentor, whose magazine last year declared that Louis Farrakhan "epitomized greatness." Minister Farrakhan, Cohen reminded his readers, "has reviled Jews in a manner that brings Hitler to mind."
Cohen's call for Obama to renounce Farrakhan was echoed by Hillary in the last debate, and she further demanded that Barack "reject" him. A beleaguered Barack dutifully did.
This was the old one-two to the midsection. Publicizing the Wright-Farrakhan ties alarmed Jewish voters backing Barack, while African-Americans, many of whom admire Farrakhan as a defiant black man, saw Barack as dissing a brother on the orders of the white liberal establishment.
Last weekend, The New York Times gave page-one coverage to the Farrakhan-Wright matter and Jewish concerns about Obama's ties to Zbigniew Brzezinski, who, said the Times helpfully, is "loathed by many Jews."
On March 5, the New York Post ran a page-one story with the banner, "Shady," and subhead, "Black Ops: Hill Ad 'Darkens' Obama." The story was based on a left-wing Website's claim that Clinton's campaign is "darkening the tone of Barack Obama's skin in a new TV attack ad."
Post columnist Amir Taheri drove the wedge deeper between Barack and Jews. Saying Barack should be proud of his middle name, "Hussein," Taheri then accused him of cutting Israel loose.
"In an important symbolic move designed to signal an end of the special relationship between Israel and America, Obama has become the first major presidential candidate in 25 years not to commit himself to transferring the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem."
Barack, said Taheri, is meeting the key demands of "all radical Islamist forces, Sunni and Shiite."
Usually Democrats play the ethnic card against Republicans. Al Gore said Bush revered a Constitution that declared blacks to be three-fifths of a person. The NAACP said Bush did not care about the dragging death of African-American James Byrd.
This time, the liberals are playing the race card on each other, and showing real proficiency.