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Who's a racist?

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On MSNBC's Ed Schultz program Friday night, the former chief of staff for Colin Powell, retired Army Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, said, of the Republican Party, "My party is full of racists ... and the real reason a considerable portion of my party wants President Obama out of the White House has nothing to do with the content of his character, nothing to do with his competence as commander in chief and president, and everything to do with the color of his skin ... that's despicable."

Wilkerson's allegation followed his former boss's endorsement of President Obama for a second term. The history of racism has certainly stained both parties, and there are racist Democrats and racist Republicans. But when I hear the race card played this close to the election, I suspect that pro-Obama forces are sensing trouble.

We've come a long way in four years, from a transracial candidate who didn't see a white or black America, but one America, to one in which if a white person votes for Mitt Romney it is evidence that voter is a racist. Suppose that white person voted for Obama four years ago and thinks the president doesn't deserve a second term because he's done a poor job? Did that person suddenly become a racist at some point between 2008 and 2012?

When white liberals (including then-Sen. Joe Biden) voted against the confirmation of Justice Clarence Thomas, were they racist? Many white liberal Democrats are working overtime to defeat Rep. Allen West, a Florida Republican. Are they racist?

Let's reverse the polarity. According to a recent NBC/WSJ poll, 90 percent of African-Americans are expected to vote for the president. For those who will do so solely to demonstrate racial solidarity, does this qualify them to be inducted into the racist hall of shame? What about conservative blacks who are voting for Romney? They're called disparaging names by some blacks. Is that racism?

Mia Love, the mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah, is running for Congress. She is an African-American woman and a Republican. If white Democrats oppose her, are they guilty of a twofer: racism and sexism?

I did not vote for Barack Obama in 2008, and I won't this time. It's because of his extreme liberalism, not his skin color. And I was still proud of my country for electing the first African-American president. If a qualified conservative African-American had been running, I would have voted for him (or her). That fulfills the wish of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., that all people be judged on their character, not their skin color.

I endorsed the nonviolent protests of Dr. King to advance civil rights but opposed the incendiary rhetoric of Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, the Black Panther Party and other black revolutionaries of the 1960s. Was I not a racist when I supported Dr. King, but racist when I opposed black radicals? How does one judge such things? Where's the racism detector, and who gets to operate it?

A Washington Post-ABC News tracking poll concluded that "The 2012 election is shaping up to be more polarized along racial lines than any presidential contest since 1988, with President Obama experiencing a steep drop in support among white voters from four years ago."

The Post-ABC News pollsters, who appear to see so much through racially colored glasses, might have asked some of those white voters who supported President Obama four years ago why they are supporting Mitt Romney now. I would be willing to wager that most, if not all, would say the president's performance has not lived up to their expectations or his hype about hope and change.

For supporters of President Obama, including Republican-in-name-only Lawrence Wilkerson, to suggest that Republicans want him out of the White House simply because he's black, is a desperate attempt by a faltering campaign to change the subject from the president's record and lack of vision for the future.

That isn't racist. That's fact.

Examiner Columnist Cal Thomas is nationally syndicated by Tribune Media.

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Cal Thomas

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The Washington Examiner