People of good will must be puzzled by the liberal media's obsession with race in this week's Republican National Convention. Presuming to understand the motives of strangers, liberal pundits manage to find bigotry in nearly every utterance by a Republican. Whether you were watching MSNBC or reading Harper's or Politico or National Journal or the New York Times -- or any number of other left-leaning outlets -- you learned that racist code exists wherever a Republican opens his mouth.
For example, who knew that the word "Chicago" is a racist epithet? It is, according to MSNBC's Chris Matthews. "They keep saying Chicago," he said of the convention speakers. "That's another thing that sends that message -- this guy's helping the poor people in the bad neighborhoods, screwing us in the 'burbs." His guest replied: "There's a lot of black people in Chicago." And there you were, thinking Chicago was merely Obama's hometown.
America also learned this week that chants of "U.S.A., U.S.A.!" are racist as well. The chant actually broke out on the convention floor when Romney-backers were trying to drown out Ron Paul supporters. But Jack Hitt of Harper's recognized the racism right away -- this rowdiness occurred when a Republican Party officer from Puerto Rico was speaking from the podium.
To the liberal mind, all policy criticisms of President Obama seem motivated by race. National Journal's Ron Fournier detected it in Mitt Romney's ads about the 1996 welfare reforms, which Obama opposed as a state senator and whose work requirements he has illegally given states permission to dilute. "Romney's team knows, or should know, they are playing the race card," Fournier wrote. The New York Times joined in, noting that Romney's message on this issue contains "a sharper edge and overtones of class and race." Better not to discuss welfare policy at all -- or at least not while Obama is president.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., commented this week on Obama's enthusiasm for golf: "He hasn't been working to earn re-election. He's been working to earn a spot on the PGA tour." That may sound like a wry jab at a political opponent, but MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell saw right through it: "Well, we know exactly what he's trying to do there," he told host Martin Bashir on Wednesday. "He is trying to align to Tiger Woods and surely, the -- lifestyle of Tiger Woods with Barack Obama. ... these people reach for every single possible racial double entendre they can find in every one of these speeches." (Don't try to understand the logic -- it's way over any thinking person's head.)
So many racial dog whistles. Or maybe not. Maybe these liberal pundits are just trying to invent a nobler cause in their own minds than the one they actually serve. Maybe it helps their self-esteem to pretend that, instead of defending a failed presidency and a lousy economic recovery, they are living 50 years ago, standing alongside freedom riders and marchers in the segregated South. Their fantasy lets them confer upon themselves all the glory of the Civil Rights struggle, without ever having to face the insults, the discrimination, the fire hoses, the lynchings, the state-sanctioned terrorism or any of the other dangers that far braver Americans fought against decades ago.