In a word, race promises to play at least as large a role in the next election as it played in the last presidential race. Rest assured: it is on this that Barack Obama and his cronies are counting.
For decades now, whites and non-whites have been engaged in a kind of racial game with one another. Like any other game, when played long enough, it becomes a ritual of a sort. But when it becomes ritualistic, there is an imminent danger that it will be forgotten as play and be treated with a deadly seriousness. This is what has happened in this case.
The players in this game are racial groups, and each is assigned a role. The white race is the Villain, the agent of Evil that is always on the hunt for other races to "exploit." Non-white races, in contrast, are embodiments of Virtue that long for nothing more than liberation from the tiresome history of the "white racist oppression" that they've suffered. It isn't that there aren't good whites and bad non-whites, but in this game, no individual is just an individual; every individual is a "team player." What this means is that each participant derives his identity from the "team" or group to which he belongs, and what that in turn means is that the goodness and badness of whites and non-whites, respectively, are defined by the rules of the game.
Good whites, as you might imagine, are those continually "atoning" for the sins of their forefathers. They decry "racism" -- by which they mean white "racism" -- as the worst of evils and can unfailingly be counted on to support every and any policy that's purportedly aimed at benefiting non-whites: "affirmative action," "bussing," "low-income housing," "bilingual education," "comprehensive immigration reform," etc.
While non-whites are no less prone to the gamut of sins that plague the whole human race, their shortcomings are due to "root causes" -- that is, to the conditions to which whites have subjected them. Thus, to address "the effects" of the horrors of their ancestors, it is necessary for whites to atone for their "racism" by throwing their weight behind exactly those policies that all "good" whites can be expected to endorse.
To put it simply, this racial game is rigged to insure that whites are forever making restitution to non-whites.
Barack Obama knows precisely how this game is played, and he plays it as well as anyone. We can rest assured that the president is the last person who needs to be told that most white Americans long to be regarded, by both themselves and others -- especially blacks -- as "colorblind." The threat of being charged with "racism" has forever been hanging over the collective head of white America. Obama presents himself to whites as just the kind of black regarding whom they can feel good about themselves, just the person to guarantee them that the ax will at long last be lifted.
Even though, biologically, he is only half-black, and even though practically everyone around whom he was raised was white, Obama chooses to identify himself as black because he knows that in so doing, he is signing up, so to speak, as a member of the winning team. Yet his designs are more ambitious than this: Obama, you see, has exploited what melanin he has to signify that the end of the racial game for which whites so long.
By styling himself in 2008 as an emblem of a "post-racial" era in which America's history of inter-racial conflict will find resolution, Obama succeeded in catapulting himself into the office of the presidency. However, the last two years -- to say nothing of his life's history -- decisively demonstrate that Obama is anything but the "post-racial unifier" that he positioned himself as, because Obama is keenly aware of the extent to which white Americans have ingested the "white guilt" with which the racial game has marked them. But you can so take it to the bank that Obama will adopt this strategy once more in 2012.
Only this time, paradoxically, he may actually have an easier go at it. Things don't have to be such, but Republicans being who they are, and the racial game being what it is, my thesis has more than a bit of plausibility.
It isn't just Obama who has his finger on the pulse of America's prevailing racial sensibility. While they won't dare say as much, the Republicans are constantly gauging it as well. But the Republicans are paralyzed with the fear that their criticisms of Obama will be interpreted as "racist." So, while they will not hesitate to raise objections against his "spending," they will not pursue him with the same relentlessness with which they would feel free to pursue a white opponent. And while Obama has demonstrated his partiality toward blacks and other racial minorities during his tenure in office -- the same partiality to which we bear witness in his Dreams from My Father as well as in his choice of friends and mentors -- like with John McCain in 2008, there is virtually no chance that Republicans will so much as touch upon this.
At least as importantly, however, is that with Republicans employing their newly acquired power to frustrate Obama's agenda, through the kinds of calls for "bipartisanship" and "civility" that we have been hearing from Obama since the beating that Democrats suffered in November, Obama can slip nicely into the role of the Victim that the racial game ascribes to blacks. By doing so, he achieves the seemingly impossible: he depicts himself, simultaneously, as just the sort of black whom whites long to support, the sort of black that refuses to charge them with "racism," and a victim of the "racism" of the Republicans.
If the GOP wants to prevail in the election of 2012, it is imperative that they muster the will to reckon with its racial subtext.