Con Games: How Conservatives Play the Race Card

11/15/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

In case you missed it, the latest attack tactic deployed by conservatives is to play the race card by saying that liberals and Democrats are playing the race card--racial jiu-jitsu far too lame to work anywhere but in the echo chamber of conservative self-love.

The problem for the conservative conspirators: President Barack Obama is black, and that is very bad news for their tighty-whitey movement, because it makes him very difficult to defame in their best Kennedy-Clinton manner. By all appearances, he is also a righteous family man in his marriage, so there is no Monica Lewinsky or Mary Jo Kopechne to invoke for the moral outrage these raging amoralists so covet.

So the co-conspirators have moved against Obama racially by acting in code. Keep in mind that 40 percent of the Republican party is in the South and that the successors to the old Southern Democrats are now all Republicans. (The Senator from the State of Segregation, AKA Strom Thurmond, had to literally leave the Democratic Party for that reason.) The only black Republicans you ever meet are on Fox News, and two out of three Latinos voted for Obama in 2008. All of that is not exactly an endorsement of conservatism from the people of color in the United States.

When the punditocracy talks about conservatives "playing to their base" in the Obama Presidency, the racial card is always on the table. Why did Rush Limbaugh fall in love with "The Magic Negro," an essay about Obama? Because it allowed him to call Obama a negro for months and months, with all the denigration that term implies in the 21st Century. In fiction, in fact, the "magical negro" is a character who helps the white protagonist get out of trouble.

Two incidents of a magical nature for conservatives transpired over the weekend just past: the meltdown by Serena Williams, who is black, at the U.S. Open, and the rude behavior by Kanye West, who is black, at the Video Music Awards.

First understand how the co-conspirators play the racial game: by not mentioning it.

These were two bad moments for two black people, but it is no coincidence that Sean Hannity's radio program and television show on Fox News paired them together Monday under the general heading of what's wrong with America -- and no coincidence that that incidents pitted two people of color against two women not of color. Nor is it a coincidence that Hannity had two blacks on a panel of three to discuss the incident on Fox News.

See? Fox News is racially fair and balanced because Hannity and the other panelist are white.

Kanye West, you'll remember, said George Bush hates white people after Katrina, an unfortunate outburst that Hannity put on the table on his radio program. But that little tidbit, though certainly relevant in the context of Conservative Racial Theory, was left out of the panel discussion, perhaps because it would have seemed...racist. In fact, Hannity and Dick Morris talked about race earlier on the television show by agreeing liberals say all criticism of Obama is now racist -- then Hannity did not even mention race in a context where it was clearly relevant. A pretty neat trick, stop to think. Hannity could not mention race in the Serena-Kanye segment because the part of the program was entirely about race. Not mentioning race was actually an act of racism.

Remember too that Kanye West said a black singer, Beyonce, should have won the Video Music Awards instead of the young white woman who did.

Two more things. It's no coincidence that both segregationist Strom, the Democrat turned Republican, and Congressman Joe "You're a liar" Wilson are both from South Carolina, in what remains the white heartland of the shrinking conservative base. And it's no surprise to look at the tens of thousands of protesters in Washington, D.C., over the weekend and see almost no white face.

Ever since Barack Obama arrived on the scene, the race card has become magical for conservatives.