Maybe racism is why people are irritated at Obama’s “you didn’t build that” line

posted at 8:01 pm on July 27, 2012 by Allahpundit

I’m tempted to agree, only because I desperately want white Democratic incumbents also telling business owners “you didn’t build that” while on the stump this fall. No worries, Jon Tester and Claire McCaskill. Free pass for whitey from swing voters on this one.

From Jon Chait’s first post this afternoon:

Mitt Romney’s plan of blatantly lying about President Obama’s “you didn’t build that” speech is clearly drawing blood. But what makes the attack work so well is not so much the lie itself but the broader subtext of it. Watch Obama’s delivery in the snippet put together by this Republican ad…

The key thing is that Obama is angry, and he’s talking not in his normal voice but in a “black dialect.” This strikes at the core of Obama’s entire political identity: a soft-spoken, reasonable African-American with a Kansas accent. From the moment he stepped onto the national stage, Obama’s deepest political fear was being seen as a “traditional” black politician, one who was demanding redistribution from white America on behalf of his fellow African-Americans.

When conservatives pushed back, he clarified that he’s not saying anyone is racist (including Romney) so much as that everyone is:

Foster writes, “ I don’t even have an argument here — which I suppose is fine since Chait doesn’t either.” He does not take the step of considering the obvious conclusion, which is that I don’t have an argument that Romney’s ad is racist because I don’t argue that Romney is racist.

I certainly do think that race is deeply embedded in American politics in ways conservatives don’t like to acknowledge. As I argued, the collapse of liberalism in the mid-sixties occurred because large numbers of whites came to see the Democratic Party as taking resources from them and giving them to lazy or otherwise undeserving black people. Obama’s election crucially depended on his image as a different kind of black politician, not one who was chastising white America or demanding concessions on behalf of other African-Americans…

Are the ads distorting Obama’s “you didn’t build that” line racist? Of course not. They do activate a set of emotions that are closely linked to racial feelings, but so does almost any debate surrounding Obama. (Read Sasha Issenberg’s pithy explanation.) The inextricable link between race and, well, just about everything accounts for the pathological character of the way we discuss race.

The problem with challenging arguments like this, of course, is that they’re nonfalsifiable. (By design.) The idea that race is inextricably linked to “just about everything” is almost prosaic in light of American history and culture, but once you concede it, there’s no limiting principle on using it to justify accusations of racism except the good will of the accuser. E.g., conservatives were plenty irritated when Elizabeth Warren made the same “you didn’t build that” argument last year, which might be a clue that this is less about the race of the speaker than what’s being spoken. But Chait’s telling you flat out in the excerpt why that counter won’t work. Because race is “deeply embedded” and O is, after all, the first black president, “almost any debate” about him must involve some racial element. The racism’s there, always, even if it’s subconscious, even if it’s grafted on to a more legit race-neutral ideological complaint; how hard you need to squint to see it depends on how badly you need to delegitimize your opponent’s argument. In this case, with Team O panicked about the fallout from “you didn’t build that,” squint hard.

Dave Weigel, who’s no rock-ribbed conservative, says it’s preposterous to think that Obama was talking in a “black dialect” during his “you didn’t build that” comments. Is he right? (Yeah, as you’ll see below.) Or is he simply in denial about the “deeply embedded” racial assumptions that he uses to judge Obama? The answer turns, presumably, on whether Dave thinks the “you didn’t build that” line is a big deal. If he does, then he needs to be delegitimized; if he doesn’t — and it turns out he doesn’t — then his racial bona fides can be assumed. That’s how political opportunism as psychology works. The only difference between Chait and garden-variety “you’re racist!” liberals is that he’s smarter and more ambitious in what he’s doing with this than they are. It’s easy to dismiss someone who screeches that Romney’s a willful racist; it’s harder to argue with the idea that we’re all conscious of race to some degree, even if only subconsciously, purely by dint of having grown up in America. That’s a much bigger net to cast. And if you’re fishing, a big net is what you want.

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The bringing race into every discussion though, I don’t understand.
lester on June 3, 2012 at 9:43 AM

rogerb on July 28, 2012 at 10:06 AM

Wait, Allah thinks Chait is smarter than “garden variety liberals” because he said any disagreement with Obama is racist? WHAAAAA????? I believe it proves Chait’s intellectual vacancy and quite frankly his stunning stupidity! Capitalist Infidel on July 28, 2012 at 9:57 AM

Which doesn’t necessarily mean that Allah’s statement is false…

Akzed on July 28, 2012 at 10:06 AM

I hate dolphins and I don’t care who knows it !!!

CallousDisregard on July 28, 2012 at 10:20 AM

lester on June 3, 2012 at 9:43 AM

rogerb on July 28, 2012 at 10:06 AM

Anyone who thinks rationally knows that the left is far more likely to interject racism.

CW on July 28, 2012 at 10:23 AM

As I argued, the collapse of liberalism in the mid-sixties occurred because…

Huh? Liberalism “collapsed” in the mid 60’s? I remember the opposite occurring. It took off in the 60’s and has been “progressing” ever since. The Reagan years were only a speed bumps. Billy Jeff’s reform of welfare only a temporary setback, now “corrected” via declarations from King Obama.

For example — see Great Society

The Great Society was a set of domestic programs in the United States announced by President Lyndon B. Johnson at Ohio University and subsequently promoted by him and fellow Democrats in Congress in the 1960s…

Johnson’s success depended on his skills of persuasion, coupled with the Democratic landslide in the 1964 election that brought in many new liberals to Congress, making the House of Representatives in 1965 the most liberal House since 1938.

farsighted on July 28, 2012 at 10:48 AM

everyone seems to be overthinking everything these days.

Allah included.

MaggiePoo on July 28, 2012 at 12:20 PM

everyone seems to be overthinking everything these days…

Don’t worry, Obama and his media acolytes are doing a great job of holding down the overall average intensity of over-think for the other 300 million of us.

drunyan8315 on July 28, 2012 at 12:46 PM

farsighted on July 28, 2012 at 10:48 AM

Yeah, I thought that was quite the leap to posit that liberalism collapsed in the mid ’60’s. Of course, if he were there participating in the “collapsing liberalism” with all of its accompanying “mind-expansion” during the sixties, that could explain the brain farts.

hillbillyjim on July 28, 2012 at 1:02 PM

Over at NRO, Jonah Goldberg reminds us of the time when Tim Noah threw the race flag at the WSJ over the question whether the American public could relate to a skinny POTUS considering the number of overweight and obese amongst us. “Skinny” was the new black.

Of course, it is just fine for media to ask “Is Chris Christie Too Fat To Be President?”

“Look, I’m sorry, but New Jersey Governor Chris Christie cannot be president: He is just too fat. Maybe, if he runs for president and we get to know him, we will overlook this awkward issue because we are so impressed with the way he stands up to teachers’ unions. But we shouldn’t overlook it — unless he goes on a diet and shows he can stick to it.”

– Michael Kingsley, Bloomberg, 29 September 2011

“You could argue that this is none of my business, but I disagree. Christie’s problem with weight ceased being a private matter when he stepped into the public arena — and it’s not something you can fail to notice.

– Eugene Robinson, Chris Christie’s Big Problem, Washington Post, 29 September 2011

“Nor is Christie just ‘slightly overweight.’ So there is no delicate way to ask this: Is Chris Christie too fat to win? Politics, after all, is a business of image and first-impressions — and study after study shows that people judge the hefty more harshly than they judge those who are thin.”

– Joel Seigel, ABC News, 29 September 2011

“You know who the Republicans want as their candidate is the tubby guy across the river, Chris Christie. “You talk about tons of fun, here we go. I want Chris Christie in this race because just I want to be able to meaningfully say, ‘Hey, bring it, fat boy!’ He’s got to be close to 400 pounds. … Take a look. … Go to Google Earth.”

– David Letterman, 28 September 2011

“The last fat president that we had was President Taft…years and years ago, I should remember, I dated him! They had to make a special bathtub for him because he was too fat to get in it,” exclaimed Behar. “I don’t think the country’s ready for a fat president again.”

– Joy Behar, The View, ABC Television, 27 September 2011

Thaaaaaaaaaat’s different!

Resist We Much on July 28, 2012 at 1:25 PM

You know who else isn’t smarter or harder working than anybody else?


magicbeans on July 28, 2012 at 1:29 PM

To expect this little of the first black president is the ultimate form of racism.

Leftists are racists!

Schadenfreude on July 28, 2012 at 2:49 PM

Leftists hate everybody, keeping the moochers in modern day plantations, dumb and uneducated, for votes only.

Period. Story. End of.

Schadenfreude on July 28, 2012 at 2:50 PM

Why racist? Isn’t Obama only a “White African American”? Or does the Kenyan surname trump that?

They gotta’ give me a scorecard so I can keep up with the proper racism.

Axeman on July 30, 2012 at 9:36 AM

… From the moment he stepped onto the national stage, Obama’s deepest political fear was being seen as a “traditional” black politician

Baloney. Obama’s deepest political fear was being seen for what he really is: a Marxist, race-obsessed, Aff*rmative Act*on stooge, who was never remotely qualified to be President of the United States. (It’s just a coincidence that that description also applies to many “traditional” black politicians, like Jesse Jackson, Sr., Jesse Jr., etc.).

AZCoyote on July 28, 2012 at 7:56 AM…

This…plus the “Reverend Shake-Down” artists are scum.
Democrats have a pitiful record with their Presidents and candidates, since and including Kennedy. I am amazed a Socialist was elected, but hope the damage done can be reversed in my lifetime.

trl on July 30, 2012 at 2:37 PM