[NOTE: This post has been updated, twice]
In the past few days besieged Obamanauts have been hurling charges of racism against Obamacare critics with increasing ferocity and, yes, unwitting, unintentionally self-indicting humor, such as Maureen Dowd’s unembarrassed admission that when she heard Rep. Joe Wilson shout “You lie!” at the president “fair or not, what I heard was an unspoken word in the air: You lie, boy!” And then there was the ineffable, Dowd-like Jimmy Carter’s entirely predictable rant “that an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he’s African-American.”
We’ve heard this all before … and before …. The Tea Parties? Racist! The Town Hall critics of Obamacare? Racist rowdies! Opposition to providing subsidized medicare to illegal immigrants? “[A] political bullet aimed at immigrants south of our borders, who mostly happen to be brown.”
Predictably, all these frenzied accusations of racism are having one effect that the accusers, if only they were rational, would lament: they are inexorably, for both better and worse, taking the sting out of that formerly wounding epithet. Since millions of people who are not racist, and who know perfectly well they are not racist, are being accused of it by people in positions of authority and, in the old days, respect, no doubt many of them will conclude that the charge has become nothing more than a partisan club with which to whack conservatives. This development is, on the whole, good, since that is in fact what the charge has become, but it is also unfortunate, since a few actual racists as well may now be immune to its censure. Liberals, ever heard of “crying wolf,” and its effect?
Unfortunately, the view that most Obama critics are racist is not limited to the fevered swamp inhabited by Maureen Down, Jimmy Carter, and the professional race baiters in an around the far left. Rasmussen’s poll this morning reveals that the Democratic party as a whole has been infected by this mania.
Twelve percent (12%) of voters nationwide believe that most opponents of President Obama’s health care reform plan are racist. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 67% of voters disagree, and 21% are not sure.
Note well: most critics, not some critics. Now note the party breakdown of these numbers:
Eighty-eight percent (88%) of Republicans reject the notion that most of the opponents are racist. So do 78% of voters not affiliated with either major party. However, just 39% of Democrats share that view. Twenty-two percent (22%) of those in the president’s party say that most of the opposition to his plan comes from racists, and another 39% are not sure.
So, more than one in five Democratic voters believe that most Obamacare critics are racist, and another 39% aren’t sure.
That is truly pathetic.
But look on the bright side: think how much worse things would be if we hadn’t elected a post-racial president dedicated and able to bring us all together.
I probably don’t need to add, but will anyway, that of course many Democrats are also deranged on issues other than race. As Iain Murray has just pointed out on NRO’s The Corner, citing this poll on “Extremism in New Jersey,” 32% of the Democrats in New Jersey “think that George W. Bush had prior knowledge of 9/11.”
Roger Kimball, quoting the philosopher Sidney Hook, makes my point far better than I did:
… Obama’s election has heralded a marked upswing in racialism. Now, more than ever, if you criticize the ideas or behavior of someone who happens to be black, you run the risk of being called racist.
It is an epithet that overuse has more or less emptied of intellectual content. But it still carries a toxic political payload. The problem, as the philosopher Sidney Hook observed some years ago … , that spurious charges of racism, far from making us more sensitive to the real thing, have the effect of dulling us to genuine instances of racism. “As morally offensive as is the expression of racism wherever it is found,” Hook wrote,
a false charge of racism is equally offensive, perhaps even more so, because the consequences of a false charge of racism enable an authentic racist to conceal his racism by exploiting the loose way the term is used to cover up his actions. The same is true of a false charge of sexism or anti-Semitism. This is the lesson we should all have learned from the days of Senator Joseph McCarthy. Because of his false and irresponsible charges of communism against liberals, socialists, and others among his critics, many communists and agents of communist influence sought to pass themselves off as Jeffersonian democrats or merely idealistic reformers. They would all complain they were victims of red-baiting to prevent criticism and exposure.