Which side is playing the race card?

Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic Monthly wrote:

Since 2009 there’s been a conservative obsession with proving that the real Obama is a black radical who has it in for white people.  That intention runs through the conspiracy theories that Michelle Obama was caught on tape talking about “whitey;” the Breitbart.com story about Obama hugging a critical race theorist while in law school; Newt Gingrich’s demagoguery during the Trayvon Martin case; Rush Limbaugh’s insistence that in Obama’s America it’s permissible for blacks to beat up whites on school buses; Dinesh D’Souza’s insistence that Obama is a Kenyan anti-colonialist; and other stories too.

These conservatives don’t care that President Obama’s actual record on racial matters is anything but radical.  Nor do they care that his reelection poses zero threat to white people as a class.

It isn’t any proposed policy change that gets them going.  There isn’t any sound, substantive reason that they focus on racial controversy.  They’re just race obsessed.  Racial angles are constantly emphasized in right-leaning media because that’s what the conservative audience wants, every bit as much as the average New York Times reader wants a very different sort of race-focused journalism.

On the right, ethnic studies is treated as an illegitimate discipline for the race-obsessed; but positing that Americans are supporting Obama’s reelection because of a psychological aversion to black people failing?  That is totally acceptable speculative commentary.

“This guy is whipping up race hatred and fear,” Tucker Carlson of The Daily Caller said on Fox News.  So according to Carlson, Obama said some stuff in 2007 that should totally shock us because nothing like it has been part of his rhetoric as president; those words would remain totally obscure if not for Carlson; but it’s Obama who is “whipping up race hatred and fear,” for telling a black audience that the federal government did less for Katrina victims than other natural disaster victims, in part because they were poor and black.

For conservatives, complaining that college administrators do less to accommodate students because they’re white is perfectly respectable commentary, and anyone who says otherwise is enforcing political correctness; but a specific critique of disaster relief dollars shortchanging blacks is “whipping up race hatred,” and labeling it beyond the pale isn’t political correctness run amok at all.

That’s completely right.  If anything, President Obama is more fearful than a white President would be of doing anything that might be interpreted as favoring black people over white people.  Obama is not a secret black nationalist, or a secret Muslim, or a secret radical socialist.  Nor is he a mediocrity elevated by black solidarity and white liberal guilt.  He is a highly gifted politician who is a brilliant and effective defender of the status quo (which is why I do not intend to vote for him).

Trying to stir up racial antagonism is harmful to American society.  The use of racial antagonism by the right wing is a red herring to divert the attention of the American public from the fact that Governor Romney is just like Obama, or worse, on all the issues that matter.

Click on The Daily Caller Video, President Obama and the Race-Obsessed Right for Conor Friedersdorf’s full post.

Click on Fear of a Black President for Ta-Nehisi Coates’ thoughts about President Obama and American attitudes about race.

Click on President Obama and the race card for my earlier thoughts.

Click on Ted Rall’s Rallblog for more from this cartoonist.

This was edited slightly on Oct. 9.

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