One feature of political debate in the Obama years is that it is common for the president’s defenders to ascribe racial motives to his critics. It’s so common, in fact, that it’s usually not newsworthy. But sometimes the case for such accusations is so flimsy that it’s worth noting.
Take, for example, a new piece by the Washington Post’s Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Eugene Robinson. The article is a defense of Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s remark that some Republicans oppose Obamacare because they don’t like President Obama, and they don’t like President Obama because “maybe he’s of the wrong color.”
Robinson argues that Rockefeller was not calling anyone a racist and was not even playing the race card. “Believing that some of the Republican and tea party opposition to Obama has to do with his race is not, I repeat not, the same as saying that anyone who disagrees with the nation’s first black president is racist,” Robinson writes.
Robinson tosses a few loaded terms into the mix; referring, for example, to “the massive GOP resistance to Obama” recalls the southern “massive resistance” of the civil rights era. But as far as making racial accusations himself, Robinson writes, “I try to focus on what a person does or says rather than speculate on what he or she ‘is.’ How can I really know what’s in another person’s heart?”