Politico must have tried transforming itself into The Onion over the weekend. Ben Smith and Avi Zenilman try to make the case that Barack Obama didn’t want a national conversation on race during the election, but in doing so, they deliberately ignore all evidence to the contrary:
When the Democratic primary descended into a charged debate about black and white and Sen. Barack Obama’s racially polarizing pastor last spring, Obama took the stage to address the question of race head-on.
“Race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now,” Obama told those assembled at Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center and a nationally televised audience in March.
His campaign, though, didn’t follow his lead.
Instead, his aides have steered clear of any explicit discussion of racial inequality or of his pioneering campaign as they try to woo swing voters, some of whom may be discomfited by the notion of the first black president.
They have to be joking, right? They didn’t want a national conversation on race? How then do they explain these attacks on Republicans and the McCain campaign that took place all summer long?
Far from not wanting to have a conversation on race, Obama and his surrogates have been unable to go three weeks since the end of the primaries without race-baiting. Team O has made the supposedly racist motives of his critics the main pushback against all criticisms, with the media’s complicity. The candidate himself has made the accusation more than once, signaling leadership on this smear tactic, a signal that his followers have gladly received and amplified.
Obama tried to avoid the issue during the primaries, understanding that he had no hope for unity in his party if he openly accused Democrats of racism in their opposition to him. He shows no such reluctance in the general election, hoping to marginalize Republicans and John McCain by transforming us into drooling racists who couldn’t possibly have any other reason to oppose a doctrinaire liberal product of the Chicago machine. The inability to prove a negative makes the “We’re not racists” response sound defensive and oddly confirming of the smear — which is why smears are so effective.
Smith and Zenilman are an example of the other reason why it’s effective. The media has allowed Obama to get away with it, perhaps because their own hostility to Republicans allows them to believe it. It’s what allows Politico to report with a straight face the notion that Team Obama has ‘avoided race’ when they’ve talked almost non-stop about nothing else.