Friday, November 11, 2011


Yup -- according to John McWhorter in The New Republic, if Herman Cain is behaving in an appalling way, we deserve the blame:

Let us imagine for a moment that a woman came forth claiming that Barack Obama had sexually harassed her fifteen years ago. What would the reaction be from liberal partisans, and assorted other supporters? We can easily imagine that there would be urgent questions about the motivations of the woman who came forward, and the media outlets that broke the news. There would likely be a furious attendance to the possibly "racist" aspects of the coverage. There would be an almost cavalier neglect of the gravity of the charge itself, as if it were somehow utterly beyond consideration that Obama had actually done it. And if the accuser were white, well, that would only further fuel liberal suspicions.

In short, the response to such allegations against Obama would involve playing the race card -- and it would bear a strong resemblance to the way Herman Cain has responded to his own sexual harassment scandal. The left has been outraged at the Cain campaign's response, but it also ought to feel a pang of recognition. If the race card is still a viable part of our national discourse in the Obama era, it is so at the behest of liberals -- and it's no less odious or callow when it is played by the left as when it is by the right.

...liberals should keep in mind that they're the ones who have enabled this kind of thing. ...

There's so much wrong with this argument that I can only deal with some of it.

Let's start with the fact that the right plays all kinds of "cards" all the time, in meretricious ways. For instance, it's common to hear right-wingers argue that abortion is "black genocide." One of the people who's played this card is, um, Herman Cain. Is McWhorter arguing that if we don't like this, we should stop "playing the genocide card," even in reference to actual genocides? Should we stop describing the Holocaust as a genocide? And if we don't, do we have no one to blame but ourselves for the fact that Cain and others use this rhetoric in reference to abortion in the African-American community?

And since when has the right limited itself to "cards" originally played by liberals? During Sarah Palin's heyday, her defenders insisted that we evil liberals hated her because she's a mom-slash-career-woman who has it all, juggling five kids and a career, while looking hot in sexy heels. Where did the wingers get that one? From us? Are we in the habit of arguing that right-wingers hate liberal women with large families who manage careers and look flirty in f*ck-me pumps?

And when righties play the misunderestimated-plain-talkin'-heartlander card, as they did with Reagan and George W. Bush (and do, to some extent, with Cain, and were prepared to do with Rick Perry before his campaign imploded), is that one they picked up from us? Do we constantly defend our politicians against charges of being stupid, uninformed hicks?

I say all this even though I agree with McWhorter's assertion that race is not the primary reason Barack Obama is being attacked -- I think the sociopathy of the current GOP, egged on by the Kochs and the Foxsters, would have led to an equally hostile response to any Democratic president, as it did to Bill Clinton (and, for that matter, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid after the 2006 midterms). I think racism is a significant component of anti-Obama attacks, but if he were white, it would be something else. Right-wingers today are like terrorists who make shrapnel bombs: if they have fewer nails, they use more screws. They use whatever's at hand. The desired amount of injury and destruction never changes.


By the way, is it me, or was The New Republic not bad for a while? It seemed to be shedding its liberals-who-hate-liberalism tone in the late Bush era and the beginning of the Obama era. That's when we had progressives working within the system, and ultimately electing Democrats who couldn't do a damn thing to stop the rapid rightward drift of America. Now that liberalism's center of gravity has shifted to Wisconsin, Ohio, and Zuccotti Park, where people are demanding real, full-throated progressivism, TNR seems to be turning back into what it was. Coincidence? Or was I fooling myself for a couple of years?


UPDATE: Tom Hilton says in comments:

The fundamental difference between liberals and conservatives (which McWhorter completely misses) is that, by and large, conservatives see race as just a "card" while liberals see actual racism as an actual problem.

Damn right -- I may disagree with some on the left who think the root cause of Obama-hate is race, pure and simple, but it's a sincerely held belief. Herman Cain knows perfectly well that this is an issue because he's a top-tier candidate for the presidential nomination, not because he's black.


c u n d gulag said...

I don't know, I stopped reading 'The National Republic(an)' years ago.
Now I leave up to braver people than me to do so.
And I'd like to thank you, and maha, and Steve B, and everyone else who reads it for me, and tells me what stupid shit they've come up with today, thus sparing me the few brain cells I still have left from exploding!

And as for the Conservatives, I want to add an amendment to the only thing that I ever thought mattered to them.
1. (And prior to this, the only)
'We are for anything that pisses-off the Liberals and Democrats. To be adjusted daily - when necessary.'

And now, the 2nd Amendment:
2. 'We're teflon, you're glue, whatever you say bounces off us and the blame sticks to you - since to started it anyway!'

This has been today's lesson in Conservatism - aka "Are You Smarter and More Mature Than a 2nd Grader?"

Kathy said...

I don't think you were fooling yourself, Steve. There were plenty of people who got sick of George W and supported Obama who've now been swayed back to the dark side because their roots aren't really deep anywhere. They sounded like the real thing for a while, but what they actually live to do is find fault. They're just showing their true colors now.

Sator Arepo said...

"By the way, is it me, or was Te New Republic not bad for a while?"

Yeah, or at least they had some thoughtful articles/writers and it seemed not bad. I don't remember precisely what the last straw was (sometime late this summer) -- I think it was a Marty column -- but I've given up on that piece-of-shit rag again (i.e. deleted bookmarks and won't follow links).

Roger said...

No, we hate Palin because she didn't abort Trig.

Steve M. said...

Oh, yeah, right.

Dark Avenger said...

McWhorter is a decent teacher in his specialty,(I got a free CD of one of his lectures about linguistics in the mail) but as a political thinker he suffers from cranio-rectal inversion syndrome.

I think it was a Marty column

He's such a racist prick, isn't he?

Tom Hilton said...

The fundamental difference between liberals and conservatives (which McWhorter completely misses) is that, by and large, conservatives see race as just a "card" while liberals see actual racism as an actual problem.

To blame the sincere (if occasionally wrong or misguided) recognition of racism by liberals for the cynical use of the race "card" by conservatives is worse than just false equivalency--it's a kind of racial denialims.

Steve M. said...

Exactly, Tom. (And worthy of a post update.)