Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.
Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze - a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many ...
Wait. I thought Obama just told us that welfare exacerbated the decline of the black family. So white "anger over welfare" wasn't misdirected. It was directed toward what Obama himself fingers as a prime source of the black-white disparity. And if a culture of broken homes tends to produce more crime, it was also directed at a prime cause of urban disorder, the impoverishment of working class-white neighborhoods, and of white flight. In other words, it was directed at a "real culprit," not a phony culprit. Is Obama too locked into standard left "welfare is a scapegoat" ideology to admit this? If so, Bill Clinton had more "nuance" and "complexity." Obama's taking us back to 1991.
Can't we ignore race, please?
But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now.
Actually, a lot of voters supported Obama because they'd kind of like to ignore race, you know? Wasn't the point of his celebrated South Carolina victory speech that thinking along racial lines was one of the "habits that prevent us from being who we want to be as a nation"? That's the whole point of Obama, from one perspective.
These voters resent the cropping up of Rev. Wright because he represents the thrusting of race back to the center of the campaign. By lecturing them on the centrality and unavoidability of race, Obama seems to be embracing Wright's error and undermining at least one basis for his appeal. (He gets into trouble with his wacky pastor andnow he's challenging us on race?)
Fortunately, the we-cannot-ignore-race stand is a fraud. What's Obama's alternative?
Walk about the crumbling schools ... talk about ... the lines at the emergency rooms ... the shuttered mills ... the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life.
In other words, the alternative to ignoring race is ...to ignore race and talk about economics.
Obama's not a race man after all. Just a standard old fashioned doctrinaire blacks-and-whites-together-for-health-care progressive. One achievement of the speech is that it makes this leftish orthodoxy come as a relief.
P.S.: Excellent closing anecdote also helped. Would have been better 15 minutes sooner! ...