Surprise: JournoList Reveals Left Uses Race as a Political Football
1:18 PM, Jul 20, 2010 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
If you ever had any doubt that the left's incessant cries of "racism" have become largely a cynical political ploy designed to marginalize and shut up political opponents, behold the birth of a racism accusation in all its naked glory as discussed on the infamous JournoList.
In 2008, when the Rev. Jeremiah Wright had outlived his usefulness to Barack Obama as a political shepherd through the South Side of Chicago and was becoming a serious liability to his presidential aspirations, the JournoList got upset. So, the infamous listserv of 300-400 like-minded liberal activists, policy wonks, and mainstream journalists, created by the Washington Post's Ezra Klein (then at the American Prospect), took action:
A simple solution to a complex problem. The Democratic candidate for president had cynically declared a hateful but powerful preacher his spiritual leader in order to be annointed in the Chicago neighborhood where he began his political career. When he was called on the association, and its obvious conflict with his message of post-racial unity, he declared that he could "no more disown" Wright than he could the black community or his own grandmother. The speech (later leatherbound and sold like bumper stickers by Obama's campaign), with its soaring prose, sweet anecdotes, credible messenger, and big-picture pleading, led everyone to feel petty for wondering whether a 20-year spiritual relationship might offer some insight into Obama's character. But when Wright launched a media tour trashing Obama himself, the candidate could not countenance it in the same way he countenanced 20 years of America-bashing and race-baiting, so Wright was quickly disowned a month after the "I can no more disown him" speech.
What better to paper over the cynicism and contradictions of the Democrats' candidate than some good, old-fashioned, crude shouts of "racist"? To their credit, several JournoList contributors suggested Ackerman's line of attack was not wise precisely because it contradicted so clearly Obama's message of healing. It was more of a strategic disagreement than a disagreement on the merits of the racism charge, but it's something:
And, that last sentence is the key, isn't it? Barack Obama has always been more than happy to outsource his accusations of racism, smearing of entire activist communities, and flat-out fabrications to surrogate liberal activists and media happy to do it for him. When questioned specifically, he or an administration official will always give a perfunctory "of course we don't think all of our political opponents are racists" answer. But when, for instance, the First Lady is called upon to address the NAACP minutes before it is to vote on a resolution condemning the Tea Party movement's racism, not a finger is lifted to engender that post-racial spirit of unity Obama is perfectly positioned to encourage in close allies.
Liberals do it because it works. In a standard that works rather conveniently for liberals, and has been embraced by much of the media during the post-Obama Tea Party era, white conservatives and their allies are considered racists for merely being white conservatives. No video evidence is necessary to condemn, and no number of repuditations is sufficient to clear conservatives of this taint. On the other hand, when black leaders and liberal allies are caught on tape being racist or hateful, as in the case of Wright, Jones, the New Black Panthers, or NAACP leaders, it is also racist to point out that racism.
A bit of a Catch-22 for someone like, say, Fred Barnes or Karl Rove, who will be accused of racism regardless of the evidence, and who may raise no evidence against accusers.
Jules Crittenden calls it "race-baitism." It's a very powerful political weapon with very little downside (Unless you're Glenn Beck, in which case the potential price for crying "racist" without reason turns out to be rather high.), and it's often those who profess to be most concerned about racial discord who deploy it without consideration:
I think we're finally getting to a point where the overuse of the "racism" charge since Barack Obama became president has weakened its sting. This story should weaken it further, as it reveals how comfortable some of our most passionate racism watchdogs are with sowing racial discord for partisan advantage.
I think this is healthy—for those falsely accused, for the political process, for race relations, and for those who suffer real racism of the sort that's not immediately politically useful to a listserv of mostly white journalists in Washington, D.C.
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