Mark Halperin’s and John Heilemann’s new book Game Change about the 2008 Presidential campaign is full of hilarious revelations. Among these is the news that Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid listed among Barack Obama’s electoral advantages that he was “light skinned” and had “no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.”
Reid quickly apologized for the comments and President Obama just as quickly accepted his apology. Rightbloggers were less forgiving, which is understandable: Obama’s race has been a sore point for the anti-Obama movement, as was recently seen when a photo surfaced of Tea Party activist Dale Robertson holding a sign with the word “Niggar” on it. The opportunity afforded by a top Democrat’s racially insensitive remarks to turn the tables was just too good to pass up.
The temptation to go a little too far was also too strong to avoid. Some rightbloggers compared Reid’s comments to those for which Trent Lott was forced to resign as GOP Majority Leader back in 2002. “Lott was kicked to the curb, because he is a Republican,” said Gay Patriot. “Democrats, meanwhile, have fostered racism throughout the past 30 years and their Senate Leadership (at least) is chock full of ’em.”
Lott got in trouble then because he said of Strom Thurmond’s 1948 presidential candidacy — in which Thurmond forsook the Democrats because of their Civil Rights innovations, and ran on a States’ Rights Democratic Party ticket under the slogan “Segregation Forever” — “When Strom Thurmond ran for president, [Mississippi] voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years, either.”
Comparing Reid’s offensive remarks to Lott’s wish that an explicitly pro-segregation candidate had been elected President is a little rich. Nonetheless Big Government, the Weekly Standard, and others drew the same equivalence. Flopping Aces even suggested Reid’s comments were worse: “You would have thought Lott wanted to bring back the Jim Crow era of segregation,” they said, “which he clearly did not,” Lott’s retroactive wish for the election of a Jim Crow ticket notwithstanding.
Moonbattery called Lott’s comments a “similar faux pas” to Reid’s, and elaborated: “So far I have heard from liberals only one sincere reason for voting for Barack Obama: because he’s black… The thrill came precisely from knowing that [Obama] was not qualified. Liberals are so noble, they are willing to sacrifice their own country as an offering to blacks, who could never achieve anything that wasn’t handed them undeservedly by whites” — before cautiously adding, “or so the liberals half-secretly believe.” They’re not gonna get him like they got Trent Lott!
The impulse to tell the world who the real racists are was felt elsewhere. “[Democrats] aren’t racists,” observed Riehl World View. “They simply don’t believe blacks can be successful without being helped by a white person.” “DEMOCRATS RACIST ROOTS EXPOSED,” said Atlas Shrugged. “The party of keep ’em down. The party of illiteracy, hand-outs and statism.” “I think that Harry Reid is a racist because he is part of the political power structure that brainwashes black americans into the lie that they cannot get anywhere in this country without big-governement,” said Left Coast Rebel.
“Liberals are uncomfortable with their own racism and project it onto Republicans,”said Nonsensible Shoes. “Classical transference.”
At National Review, Jonah Goldberg noted that George Will had disputed the racism of Reid’s remarks, and observed, “Well, I dunno. If Reid had used the word ‘African-American’ instead of ‘negro’ I would say Will has a better case.” This is odd coming from Goldberg, who in 2002 found it “depressing that ‘people of color’ has replaced ‘colored people.‘ In a very important sense, the old phrase was better — even if it represented something worse.” You’d think, then, that Goldberg would be more sympathetic to Reid’s retro usage. But he found it “yet another example of how Washington’s liberal Democrats have one set of rules for themselves and another for everybody else.”
How times change, and how quickly! A little more than a week ago, a Democrat was found to have emailed a Photoshop of Obama shining Sarah Palin’s shoes. While some of the brethren had a laugh at this reversal, others who may have noticed that the image was popular among a certain class of conservatives disputed that the image was racist at all.
Tom Maguire said that Rush Limbaugh had been a shoeshine boy, so “I am going to take a flyer here and opine that when Rush gets out of the hospital he won’t be agreeing with the notion that shining shoes is a demeaning job for blacks only.” Also, “Horatio Alger wrote a rags-to-riches story about a shoeshine boy that eventually made it to the National Music Theater Network in 2001. I infer that in the original story the kid was white.”
Instapundit went with it: “Rush Limbaugh actually was a shoeshine boy. Yeah the racial stereotype is a bit shaky — when I was a kid I knew older brothers of friends who did that; even in Birmingham, Alabama they were white. By the time I was a teenager, of course, shoeshines were on the way out.”
When this didn’t go over, Instapundit added, “Well, my first reaction here was that the pic was racist; I was trying to be fair by noting Maguire’s response. I still think the pic was racist, but now that every criticism of Obama is called racist, I suppose I’ve gotten jaded.”
Sensitivity to racist imagery, and remarks, tends to vary with circumstances, and Instapundit has at this writing several posts relating to the Reid incident. But the amount of political traction that can be had out of the controversy is probably negligible. If you believe one party is more racist than another, this probably isn’t going to change your mind. Hell, if Henry Louis Gates didn’t do it, what would?