Is Frank Rich the Only Non-Racist Left in America?


Last week, I attacked Frank Rich's nonsense article about race and the Tea Parties, in which he prosaically (and not-at-all-like those heavy-breathers on the right) compared recent health care protests to a famous Nazi pogrom that presaged the Holocaust. It's always helpful when demonizing your opponent to invoke Nazism—they are that bad—but Rich's real message was embedded in his headline: The rage is not about health care. And I suspect I won't spoil the ending if I reveal that health care protesters are collectively motivated by race hatred.

Yesterday he revisited the issue, sharing an email from one of his chums (a "prominent liberal Obama supporter") who came to the shocking conclusion—one so appalling, yet so plausible, that it gobbled up two paragraphs of his column—that Rich and his correspondent are perhaps the last anti-racists in America. Indeed, even those leftists critical of Obama—think Glenn Greewald, Naomi Wolf, Jane Hamsher—could also be motivated by subterranean racial bias!

Last week, after I wrote about the role race plays in some of the apocalyptic right-wing hysteria about the health care bill, a friend who is a prominent liberal Obama supporter sent me an e-mail flipping my point. He theorized that race also plays a role in "the often angry and intemperate talk" he has been hearing from "left-liberal friends for the past many months about what a failure and a disappointment" the president has been. In his view, "Obama never said anything, while running, to give anyone the idea" that he was other than a "deliberate, compromise-seeking bipartisan moderate." My friend wondered if white liberals who voted for Obama expected a "sweeping Republicans-be-damned kind of agenda" in part — and he emphasized "in part!" — because "they expect a black guy to be intemperate, impetuous, impatient" rather than "measured, deliberate, patient."

Am I the only one who thinks this is getting a wee bit ridiculous? Instead of a post-racial America, are we now stuck with the racial politics of the university, where we presume that everyone is motivated by hate until they conclusively prove otherwise? The rest of Rich's column is, as usual, flimsy scaffolding holding together a few Coulteresque points. Take this not-so-subtle dig at our previous president, of whom there is much to say without going all reductio ad Hitlerum:

[Obama] is the reincarnation of J.F.K., L.B.J., F.D.R., Reagan, Hitler, Stalin, Adlai Stevenson or Nelson Mandela. (Funny how few people compared George W. Bush to anyone but Hitler and his parents.)

Get it? If you are confused by that parenthetical, I think the "and his parents" refers to George H.W. and Barbara Bush, not the elder Schicklgrubers.

Last week, newspapers, blogs,  and political talk shows were thick with stories about David Frum's dismissal from AEI. According to those sympathetic to Frum, he was relieved of his duties after attacking the Republican Party leadership on health care, bemoaning the coarsening of rhetoric on the right, and accusing the "movement" of shunting more moderate conservative intellectuals to the side. The nub of his criticism is this: in celebrating Beck and Limbaugh, conservatives are putting ratings, viewers, and readers first and ideas that could reinvigorate the party second. Regardless of his tactics and ignoring the plausibility of his prescriptions, there is much to be said for this argument. But while Obama's supporters have gleefully picked up on Frum's AEI firing, and divined quite a bit about the modern conservative mindset from it, who on their side will be the first to pull a Frum and denounce the over-the-top rhetoric of people like Rich, Paul Krugman, and Ed Schultz?

In other news, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) explains that the Tea Partiers are marching "without robes and hoods," inspired by George Wallace, and that the health care protests on Capital Hill were—guess what?—on the "verge of Kristallnacht."