Herman Cain Played The Race Card, But Liberals Are The Ones Who Dealt It- New Republic
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.
Yes, such claims are generally more cynical, and less coherent, when they are deployed by conservatives. It borders on absurdity that the very conservatives who have harped on the importance of “moving past” racism are defending Cain as a victim of discrimination. In any case, the charges against Cain have become so concrete that it is cartoonish to pretend that racism is truly what is at stake.
But most of the left’s invocations of racism have also, in any objective sense, lost credibility—not because they follow Cain in trying to contradict specific facts, but because they have become so omnipresent and vague as to lose all meaning. Liberals imagine they are fighting the good fight, that they are uncovering truths about the hidden role of racism in the world. But what they have really been doing is making a dogma of racial grievance, one that has been exploited repeatedly by public figures on the left—and was bound to inevitably be deployed by politicians on the right.
This has become especially egregious in the last several years, as liberals have serially suggested that Obama’s political detractors are all insidiously motivated by bigotry. This is an agenda that goes beyond pointing out the occasional mean T-shirt or sign, or scattered tacky eruptions like Rep. Joe Wilson’s “You lie!” eruption during a State of the Union address two years ago. That would be too anodyne: We all already presume that there are backwards individuals in our society, flies in the ointment.
What liberals prefer to suggest is that there would be no vehement opposition to the White House, no Tea Party—or at least a kinder, gentler Tea Party—if Hillary Clinton were President and following the same line as Obama. Or that liberals would have all fallen into line if Obama’s current agenda were being peddled by a President John Edwards. This is not an empirical inquiry into specific instances of racism; it is a theory about the nature of country’s current agitation—namely, that it is informed by a general racial malice.