A few weeks ago, the liberal comedian Bill Maher and conservative strategist and pundit Bill Kristol had a brief spat on Maher’s HBO show, putatively over what instigated the tea party but ultimately over the psychic wound that has divided red America and blue America in the Obama years. The rise of the tea party, explained Maher in a let’s-get-real moment, closing his eyes for a second the way one does when saying something everybody knows but nobody wants to say, “was about a black president.” Both Maher and Kristol carry themselves with a weary cynicism that allows them to jovially spar with ideological rivals, but all of a sudden they both grew earnest and angry. Kristol interjected, shouting, “That’s bullshit! That is total bullshit!” After momentarily sputtering, Kristol recovered his calm, but his rare indignation remained, and there was no trace of the smirk he usually wears to distance himself slightly from his talking points. He almost pleaded to Maher, “Even you don’t believe that!” “I totally believe that,” Maher responded, which is no doubt true, because every Obama supporter believes deep down, or sometimes right on the surface, that the furious opposition marshaled against the first black president is a reaction to his race. Likewise, every Obama opponent believes with equal fervor that this is not only false but a smear concocted willfully to silence them.
Though Chait acknowledges that appeals to white racism have undergirded the modern Republican Party since the civil rights era, he insists liberals are bullies who refuse to “acknowledge that the ability to label a person racist represents, in 21st-century America, real and frequently terrifying power.” He singles out MSNBC for special scorn (full disclosure: I’m a contributor there), while never once mentioning Fox by name. “MSNBC has spent the entire Obama presidency engaged in a nearly nonstop ideological stop-and-frisk operation,” Chait writes.Slate: Jonathan Chait’s look at race during the Obama era is missing one thing: black Americans.
See what he did with that “stop-and-frisk” reference? In case you’ve missed it, police departments in some cities have been accused of infringing the civil rights of blacks and Latinos by physically stopping them, and invasively frisking them, with little and sometimes no evidence of wrongdoing. It’s kind of a big deal to civil rights liberals, of every race. So Chait tweaks them by accusing MSNBC of stopping and frisking conservatives “ideologically” – as in metaphorically and without consequence, which technically means not stopping and frisking them at all.
If you liked that comparison, you’re going to love the whole piece.
If I were outlining a racial history of the Obama administration, it would begin with policy: A housing collapse that destroyed black Americans’ wealth; a health care law attacked as “reparations” and crippled by a neo-Calhounite doctrine of “state sovereignty”; a broad assault on voting rights and access to the polls, concentrated in the states of the former Confederacy. Indeed, it would focus on the deep irony of the Obama era: That the first black president has presided over a declining status quo for many black Americans.New York Magazine: Obama, Racism, and the Presumption of Innocence outlines many responses to Chait's piece, and his own responses to them.
In short, it would treat race as a real force in public life that has real consequences for real people.
You should contrast this with Jonathan Chait’s most recent feature for New York magazine, where the story of race in the Obama administration is a story of mutual grievance between Americans on the left and right, with little interest in the lived experiences of racism from black Americans and other people of color.
A huge proportion of these intra-left debates concern establishing the boundaries of precisely when and how one liberal can fairly accuse another of racism. When it comes to making such accusations against conservatives, do liberals have any evidentiary standards at all? Reading the liberal objections to my piece, I fail to detect any.Why Obama's Presidency Has To Be All About Race Now
So the left is doing what they always do when their policies fail: make everything about race, instead. If the Obama presidency itself is what’s failing, then his whole presidency—the one that was supposed to usher in a post-racial era—must be all about race, too.National Review: Liberals Are Playing a Losing Game on Race - "Some of them know their accusations are overstated, and their rhetoric could cost them politically."
Hence a long article by Jonathan Chait in New York magazine informing us that yes, Obama’s term in office was really about race all along: “if you…set out to write a social history of the Obama years, one that captured the day-to-day experience of political life, you would find that race has saturated everything as perhaps never before.”
Shouting “racism” in a crowded media has poisoned our political conversations and become a substitute for thought. Liberals hated such name-calling in the 1950s when some conservatives, such as the John Birch Society and other groups, smeared people they disagreed with as Communists. Now they can’t wait to label as racist conservatives such as Paul Ryan who point out (just as Democrats such as the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan — and, yes, Barack Obama — have done) that poor cultural habits can play a role in perpetuating poverty in many inner cities.Salon: Watch Melissa Harris-Perry and Jonathan Chait’s edgy debate on politics and race - "The New York Magazine writer joined the MSNBC host to talk about his divisive piece on race in the Obama era"
Jonathan Chait, a columnist for New York magazine, is a staunch liberal but a thoughtful one. In a long essay in this week’s issue, he mournfully notes that race has “saturated” our political discourse
When Chait refers to this quote as “the ubiquitous Atwater Rosetta-stone confession,” it’s meant to be dismissive. He uses “ubiquitous” to mean that the quote is over-referenced, and he uses “Rosetta-Stone” sarcastically to argue that you can’t actually translate every conservative belief into a form of abstract racism. And he follows this up by flat-out refuting the main thrust of what Atwater confessed to:Politics is Professional Wrestling: New York Magazine's Jonathan Chait Reveals White Racist Conservatives Are Now 'Victims' of Anti-Racism's 'Terrifying Power' in the Age of Obama
As in professional wrestling, there is a natural ebb and flow to a feud. Chait and Coates's "program" reached a climax this week with the latter appearing on the Sunday morning edition of Melissa Harris-Perry's essential MSNBC program.The New Republic predicts the future: The Obama-Era Race Wars Are Ending. Get Ready For the Clinton-Era Gender Wars.
Unfortunately, Chait was unable to be on Melissa Harris-Perry's show with Ta-Nehisi Coates.
A great feud also has falling action and closure--in wrestling parlance this is called the "blow off" match.
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