I remember during the campaign when darkening Obama’s skin was racist. Now it’s racist to paint him white. You wanted Change, you got it.

So why the anonymity? Perhaps because the poster is ultimately a racially charged image. By using the “urban” makeup of the Heath Ledger Joker, instead of the urbane makeup of the Jack Nicholson character, the poster connects Obama to something many of his detractors fear but can’t openly discuss. He is black and he is identified with the inner city, a source of political instability in the 1960s and ’70s, and a lingering bogeyman in political consciousness despite falling crime rates.

The Joker’s makeup in “Dark Knight” — the latest film in a long franchise that dramatizes fear of the urban world — emphasized the wounded nature of the villain, the sense that he was both a product and source of violence. Although Ledger was white, and the Joker is white, this equation of the wounded and the wounding mirrors basic racial typology in America. Urban blacks — the thinking goes — don’t just live in dangerous neighborhoods, they carry that danger with them like a virus…

Obama, like the Joker and like the racial stereotype of the black man, carries within him an unknowable, volatile and dangerous marker of urban violence, which could erupt at any time. The charge of socialism is secondary to the basic message that Obama can’t be trusted, not because he is a politician, but because he’s black.

This reminds me of when McCain’s “Celebrity” ad debuted and the left went on a three-day bender trying to top each other with ever more inventive theories about the alleged racial subtext. It’s a parlor game for progressive nerds: Take any conservative attack on Obama, assume racism, and then connect as many dots as you need to in order to get from point A to point B. Here it’s Obama = Joker; Joker = terrorizes city; terrorizing cities = stereotype of blacks; ergo, Obama = stereotype of blacks. It’s like “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” but with political benefits. And as always with these things, the ease and almost eagerness with which the author perceives the nastiest racial stereotypes is unsettling. If you showed someone an inkblot from a Rorschach test and they told you “I see a violent Negro!”, you’d be forgiven for thinking they have issues. Yet that’s what all these pieces boil down to. Note to WaPo: The supposed violent inner-city criminal in question here wore mom jeans to the All-Star Game. I wouldn’t worry about middle America associating him with the Crips and Bloods.

What the poster really is, of course, is blasphemous, but the left fancies itself above such vulgar things as idol worship and besides, blasphemy doesn’t have the political charge that it used to. As a substitute, racism will do just fine.