Have we, as a nation, reached the point at which we judge our leaders not “by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous words? We would wish it to be so, but judging from Juan Williams’s recent essay in the Wall Street Journal, we are not there yet.
Williams, himself a victim of false accusations of prejudice, recycles the old charge that critics of President Barack Obama are racist.
Williams is careful not to put the point quite so bluntly. He seems to acknowledge that strong critics of the president may “run into charges of…being mean-spirited and racist,” implying that those charges might not be warranted. And yet he cannot help himself: he argues that Obama is in fact held to a higher standard because of his race, specifically because he is the first black president, which supposedly invites much closer scrutiny.
That is unprovable at best, and nonsense at worst, because Obama is also superlative in other ways–and not necessarily good ones. He is, arguably, the most radical left-wing president the nation has ever had. He is also, arguably, the least experienced candidate to have sought the nation’s highest office. As president, he has been the most profligate in our history. And he ranks among the most mean-spirited, at least towards opposition.
Those factors combine to provoke fierce divisions in Washington and across the nation–divisions made more bitter by the fact that Obama portrayed himself as a unifying figure. In the weeks before his second term, he made it clear–much to the delight of the liberal media–that his goal was not to reach grand bargains to ensure the nation’s future but to destroy the Republican Party, the better to transform the nation according to his design.
That is why the much-maligned Mitch McConnell, along with the rest of the his party, wanted to restrict Obama to one term. By 2010, after the president rammed Obamacare through Congress against the wishes of most Americans, it was clear he had an agenda that had little to do with fixing the economy or even performing his basic constitutional duties. He meant what he said in 2008 about “fundamentally transforming” America.
There are two reasons liberals like Williams continue to resort to false accusations of racism against Obama’s opponents. One is that they do not wish to admit–at least not openly–how extreme Obama’s ambitions are, or how disappointing his performance has been. The other is that race is important to the story of Obama’s rise–but not in general elections, where he faced weak opponents, but in the Democratic primary in 2008.
The Democratic Party set up the anti-democratic super-delegate system in the 1980s to prevent the kind of insurgency Obama mounted in 2008. When it appeared that Obama might win more votes than Hillary Clinton but still lose the nomination due to the super-delegates, he and his allies mounted a campaign designed to shame the Clintons and their allies, falsely accusing them of racism, convincing superdelegates to switch sides.
It worked: in the end, superdelegates put Obama over the top, though he finished with fewer votes than Clinton. Democrats could not face the prospect of denying the first viable black candidate a chance.
Liberals like Williams know that is part of the Obama story, and would sooner forget it. That is why they project charges of racism–ironically, keeping a racist double standard alive, long after it ought to have been discarded.