Here is Eugene Robinson, writing in today's Washington Post, attempting to best Frank Rich, Colbert King, and all of America's Tea Party obsessed columnists (did it surprise you that, according to Pew, Christine O'Donnell sucked up more media oxygen than any other candidate this cycle?) with this instant classic, accusing everyone on Earth of being racist.
One thing that struck me from the beginning about the tea party rhetoric is the idea of reclaiming something that has been taken away. At a recent campaign rally in Paducah, Ky., Senate candidate Rand Paul, a darling of the tea party movement, drew thunderous applause when he said that if Republicans win, "we get to go to Washington and take back our government."
Take it back from whom? Maybe he thinks it goes without saying, because he didn't say.
Well, of course it goes without saying that a Republican candidate opposed to the agenda of the Democratic House, Senate, and presidency needn't specify who controls the levers of government. But Eugene Robinson, racial codebreaker, sees something deeply sinister in this type of rhetoric and, I suspect, voter's predicted repudiation of the Democratic Party.
On Sunday, in a last-minute fundraising appeal, Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee implored his supporters to help "return American government to the American people." Again, who's in possession of the government right now, if not the American people? The non-American people? The un-American people?
Here it comes…
You know who. A black president.
Bush was vilified by critics while he was in office, but not with the suggestion that somehow the government had been seized or usurped—that it had fallen into hands that were not those of "the American people.
Whoa, whoa. Doubtless Robinson would detect racial animus in my saying so—do I say such things about other columnists?—but to suggest that there is something unique about this type of language is either deeply dishonest or just plain dumb.
Is the Google broken at Washington Post headquarters? Because if Robinson wanted to test his theory that the silly, populist phrase "take back the government" (or, alternately, "take back America") is some secret racist handshake, he could have poked around the Reason website and found this post, in which I attacked the Post's Richard Cohen for making the same stupid argument. An excerpt:
Like actor and political scientist Jon Hamm, Cohen bemoans "all this talk about 'taking back America' (from whom?)" we hear from conservatives and Tea Party activists. But it's an entirely appropriate sentiment, one that fails to exercise Richard Cohen, when Howard Dean writes a book called Winning Back America. Or when liberal radio host Thom Hartmann issued his 2004 call to arms, We the People: A Call to Take Back America. Give me a minute to find Cohen's column lamenting The Nation editor Katrina Vanden Heuvel's 2004 book Taking Back America: and Taking Down the Radical Right. Or this straight-to-the-remainder-table book from James Carville and Paul Begala. Or maybe Cohen's cable was on the fritz when, just this weekend, MSNBC blowhard Ed Schultz gathered on the mall to tell people that "This is a defining moment in America. Are you American? This is no time to back down. This is time to fight for America." Why do we have to fight for America? Who is attacking America?
Exit question for Robinson: Is President Obama a racist for speaking at the Take Back America conference in 2006, 2007, and 2008?