02 October 2012

Telling Romney's fortune with a race card

George Will is another victim of this year's Bipolarchy Fallacy: the assumption that an objective conclusion that President Obama is a failure must result in the election of Mitt Romney. Given Romney's stagnant standing in opinion polls prior to tomorrow's first debate with the incumbent, Will is forced to grasp at irrational explanations for Romney's apparent failure so far. Unable to acknowledge the most obvious possibility, that most voters actually have memories and don't want to entrust the country to Republicans again so soon after the W years, no matter how badly Obama seems to be doing, the columnist pulls a Romney of his own and insults a potential majority of voters, accusing them of a quasi-racist patronization of the First Black President. His conclusion:

That Obama is African American may be important, but in a way quite unlike that darkly suggested by, for example, MSNBC’s excitable boys and girls who, with their (at most) one-track minds and exquisitely sensitive olfactory receptors, sniff racism in any criticism of their pin-up. Instead, the nation, which is generally reluctant to declare a president a failure — thereby admitting that it made a mistake in choosing him — seems especially reluctant to give up on the first African American president. If so, the 2012 election speaks well of the nation’s heart, if not its head.

Nothing can be wrong with the Romney campaign -- though Will regrets a lack of risk-taking ideological audacity -- or with the candidate himself, so something must be wrong with the American people, or at least with their heads rather than their hearts. If the Democrat is failing the Republican must win; why can't people see this? Can Americans actually prefer to muddle through with Obama and all his faults rather than take Romney on? It must be some sort of white guilt, even though most whites probably will vote for Romney. Those saps must be afraid that repudiating Obama is akin to repudiating the idea of a black President -- or so Will assumes. Addressing that presumed mentality, the columnist tries to apply reverse psychology. The way to prove you're not racist is to repudiate Obama. There's a historical precedent.

A significant date in the nation’s civil rights progress ... was Oct. 3, 1974, when Frank Robinson, one the greatest players in history, was hired by the Cleveland Indians as the major leagues’ first black manager. But an even more important milestone of progress occurred June 19, 1977, when the Indians fired him. That was colorblind equality. Managers get fired all the time. The fact that the Indians felt free to fire Robinson — who went on to have a distinguished career managing four other teams — showed that another racial barrier had fallen: Henceforth, African Americans, too, could enjoy the God-given right to be scapegoats for impatient team owners or incompetent team executives. 

Wait a second! Was that a Freudian slip? Isn't Will saying, by analogy, that if Obama loses, he'll be a scapegoat for the impatient or incompetent analogues of baseball personnel in political or economic life? In effect, Will has been saying that Obama, as the President and not as a black man, should be the scapegoat for persistent economic stagnation. It economic recovery has been unsatisfactory, we have to replace the man at the top, and as Will sees it the only possible replacement is Romney. According to this particular Bipolarchy Fallacy, Romney must win by default. But Bipolarchy is increasingly driven by fear and hatred rather than any rational analysis -- not that a preference for Romney over Obama is necessarily rational. We've reached such an extreme of polarization, as Romney indelicately acknowledged in his "47%" speech, that many Americans can never imagine voting Republican, just as many others can never imagine voting Democratic, under any circumstances. The primary factor in this is not some psychological attitude about race or some belief in entitlement, but each side's perception of the other. If people are voting for President Obama this year, there are two possible reasons. They either think that he has done a good job, given the circumstances, or they do not trust the Republican party with the White House. Had the Democratic President been a white man, and done the same things as Obama, the polls would most likely look the same as they do now. What writers like Will have to explain to their like-minded readers is this widespread hatred of the Republican party. If all they can come up with are ad hominem explanations that damn the haters -- if they can't even imagine approaching people with an explanation of why their image of the GOP is false -- they'll do no better than Romney's doing now.

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