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Noemie Emery: Liberal disillusionment somehow less racist than conservative opposition

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Boy, some people fly off the handle at nothing these days. "F--- the president," an unidentified Democrat said at a House caucus, concerning the tax deal President Obama cut with Republicans. At once, the keen ears of Maureen Dowd picked up a message: "Fair or not, what I heard was an unspoken word in the air: 'F--- you, boy!' " There was no doubt in her mind that this was the message.

"Some people just can't believe a black man is president, and will never accept it," she said. Joan Walsh at Salon said that people had "blackened" him. Joe Klein said people were "freaked" by the feeling that the country they loved was being taken over by "furriners ... Latinos, South Asians, East Asians ... liberated, uppity blacks."

Did they say this? Not really.

They said it before, about Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., who muttered "you lie" during a speech by Obama; about people protesting the passage of health care; about people in Tea Parties protesting the national debt.

It was fun while it lasted, but now that those on the left are also mad at Obama on matters of policy, it is becoming more and more obvious that the attempt of the left to describe opposition as rooted in bias was a self-serving fraud all along.

Wilson was impolite, but "lie" is a race-neutral comment. "Kill the bill," isn't a race-conscious protest. And the people Klein called "tea baggers" were so "freaked" out by the loss of their country to Latinos, East Asians and blacks that they elected Latinos in New Mexico, Nevada and Florida; an East Asian female in South Carolina; and two blacks so "uppity" that one beat the son of Strom Thurmond in South Carolina: by Klein's standards, "furriners" all.

America has faults, and everyone knows it, but it frequently shakes them with speed. In 1960, John F. Kennedy ran for president amid charges the pope was about to take over the country. Eight years later, his brother and Eugene McCarthy (an ex-seminarian) both ran for president, and nobody cared.

Likewise it took us less than two years into the term of our first nonwhite president for his fellow pols to show him the same respect, awe and deference they had shown to WASP Presidents Clinton and Bush.

In politics, tribal passions organize themselves around parties, not race, and express themselves crudely: Bill Clinton wasn't racist when he tried to nudge Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Fla., out of the race for the Senate in Florida: He saw Marco Rubio as a threat to his party and wanted to cut off his rise at all costs.

The good news is that most politicians are easy enough around people of varying skin tones that they feel free to treat them the same way -- roughly, rudely and even profanely -- that they treat those of their own ethnic provenance.

Is this progress? You betcha. Is it time to get rid of those race-colored glasses? Oh boy, it sure is.

Examiner Columnist Noemie Emery is contributing editor to the Weekly Standard and author of "Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families."

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Noemie Emery

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The Washington Examiner