The "race-card game" has evolved over the last few decades, says Christopher Hitchens at Slate. When the 1960s started, "it used to be George Wallace and Orval Faubus" using the N-word. As the civil rights era advanced, this "became less respectable and, with the defection of white Southerners to the Republican Party," racial politics morphed into "more a matter of codes and signals": Richard Nixon's "Southern strategy" being a "subtle" example of this, while George Bush Sr.'s Willie Horton ad was "a rather crude one." But now that the U.S. actually has a black president, "the vagaries of the race card have, if anything, only increased." Here, an excerpt:
Long before Glenn Beck had accused the president of being motivated by hatred for white people, the Hillary camp had been circulating the rumor that Michelle Obama was on tape with a speech denouncing "whitey." ... [But] aside from a minor and avoidable gaffe on the occasion when Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. was clumsily arrested at his own front door in Cambridge, Mass., Obama has done little or nothing to raise the racial temperature and has endured a pelting of vulgar defamation with remarkable patience.
It would be or ought to be dangerous if we ever get to the point where the charge of racism becomes so overused and hackneyed as to be meaningless. Such a term ought to retain its potency as a weapon of shame and disapproval. Yet there are times, I must confess, that I almost wouldn't miss it.