01/25/2008 07:47 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Going Into The South Carolina Primary Tomorrow Identity Politics Is Back, Haunting The Clintonite Democratic Party That Nurtured It. This Could Hand The Election To John McCain In November.

Remember the O.J. Simpson verdict? Remember those shots of everyday African-Americans cheering in the beauty shops and corner stores? Remember how shocked well-meaning white liberal women were, how stunned? They believed in DNA. They couldn't understand the black reaction, they thought it was a feminist issue--domineering man murders his female property. They didn't get it.

In due course, the cultural fashionistas--led by the Clintons--covered over that glimpse of truth and carried on with their shell game, substituting high profile gestures of diversity for economic justice, serving the cause of global corporate capital under an umbrella of inclusive rhetoric.

Now Obama is no radical reformer on the policy level. At least not yet. Let's not pretend he is. But Obama is, in virtue of his being, a radical transformer of the discourse that defines our society. And the Clintons know it. They know they can't hold a candle to him on the issue of who really represents transformative change.

So here's what the Clintons decided to do. They decided to fit South Carolina, where Obama seemed bound to win anyway, into this story line: Obama emerges from his victory there and goes into the delegate rich primaries on February 5 as "the black candidate." That's what all their attacks over the last couple of weeks come down to. That's why Hillary bailed out and left Bill (America's so-called first black president) in South Carolina to bury the hatchet--in Obama's neck. In a real black man's neck.

They made that decision after all these astonishing months in which Obama has managed to transcend race in this country. After all these astonishing months in which Obama has presented an authentic progressive alternative to identity politics for the nation and the world--that's the choice the Clintons made. In spite of the transcending promise he represents, they have maneuvered to stick the label "black candidate" on Obama's forehead--and risk setting us back by decades.

Why have they done that? In order to win. That's how entitled they feel to a Clinton restoration.