JONATHAN CHAIT JULY 28, 2010
Putative Democratic pollsters Doug Schoen and Pat Cadell have made a mini-career in the Obama administration as Dick Morris-esque apostates. They repeat republican talking points, but the hook that gets them attention is that they make sure to mention that they're Democrats, they write this out of sadness rather than anger, their party has left them, etc.
Part of the difficulty of this game, as Morris has shown, is that the bar for what counts as ideologically surprising coming from you tends to get a little higher each time. Advising Democrats to abandon health care reform at the one yard line is no longer interesting coming from Schoen and Cadell. Now to grab people's attention they have to call President Obama a racial demagogue:
Mr. Obama has divided America on the basis of race, class and partisanship. Moreover, his cynical approach to governance has encouraged his allies to pursue a similar strategy of racially divisive politics on his behalf.
The first hint that as president Mr. Obama would be willing to interject race into the political dialogue came last July, when he jumped to conclusions about the confrontation between Harvard Prof. Henry Louis "Skip" Gates and the Cambridge police. ...
Sen. Jon Kyl (R., Ariz.) has said the president told him in a closed-door meeting that he would not move to secure the border with Mexico unless and until Congress reached a breakthrough on comprehensive immigration reform. That's another indication Mr. Obama is willing to continue to play politics with hot-button issues.
Add in the lawsuit against the Arizona immigration law and it's clear the Obama administration is willing to run the risk of dividing the American people along racial and ethnic lines to mobilize its supporters—particularly Hispanic voters, whose backing it needs in the fall midterm elections and beyond....
On an issue that has gotten much less attention, but is potentially just as divisive, the Justice Department has pointedly refused to prosecute three members of the New Black Panther Party for voter intimidation at the polls on Election Day 2008.
Okay, so we have three pieces of evidence here to support the claim that Obama is deliberately dividing people by race. First, when asked at a a press conference about the arrest of Skip Gates, Obama opined that the police made a mistake. (They do not mention Obama's subsequent, very high profile and successful effort to reconcile Gates and the arresting officer.) Second, Obama wants to seal the border with Mexico only as part of a comprehensive immigration reform plan, in keeping with the beliefs of most immigration experts that the two things can only work in conjunction. And third, his Department of Justice -- whose decisions he does not control -- has decided to ignore the right-wing crackpot obsession with the notion that two black racists may have intimidated voters at an almost all-black polling station. (Even conservatives like Abigail Thernstrom have dismissed this issue.)
Moreover, they don't explain why it is in the interest of a black president to racially divide America. This is a mostly white country, after all. To the extent that the vote is divided along racial lines, Obama is going to lose. So even if Obama's plan is to create a polarized 65-35 nation in which he's on the losing end, then the correct accusation is that he's a fool. It's certainly not "cynical."