Belmont Club

Tarpeian Rock

There’s a debate raging at Instapundit over whether to cross the racial Rubicon. This was the subject of an earlier post that anticipated this very debate.

QUOTING OBAMA IS RACIST: “It’s funny how quickly liberals and the media (PTR) can do a heel-turn,” Jim Treacher writes:

OUT: “You selectively edited that!”
IN: “You put back in all the parts we selectively edited out!”

You know, I followed the ’08 presidential race pretty damn closely, and this is the first I’m hearing about that speech. I’m willing to bet that all the people insisting it isn’t news hadn’t heard of it either, or hadn’t seen the whole thing. But they’ve decided you don’t need to know about it. Romney’s dog 30 years ago is important, but Obama’s racebaiting speech 5 years ago isn’t.

Quoting his supporters is also racist, even though in 2009 and 2010, we were supposed to assume the worst about the Tea Party from its most extreme members, whom the networks invariably chose to feature on their broadcasts.

GLENN, I’M SYMPATHETIC TO MANY OF YOUR ARGUMENTS, and I agree that there’s been an effort to make people feel that we’re not allowed to criticize Obama and many people — in the media and in normal life — have an instinct to protect him from criticism. Politics, like any other human endeavor, entails human emotion, and unless you want to turn away from politics altogether, you have to play within reality that exists. The emotions around race are deep and complex. I recommend not toying with them. Move to something more optimistic and positive. That’s what Romney and Ryan seem to want to do with their campaign. They can’t control what their supporters choose to talk about, but this racial material is dragging them down.

SO, ANN, criticizing Obama’s racial hypocrisy looks ugly? I see your point, actually, but I think that’s largely in response to a media environment in which any pointed criticism of Obama has been defined as ugly. And that’s a common lefty-media trick, setting things up so that any effective argument is somehow pre-defined as somehow impolite. There’s an instrumental argument that folks on the right need to take this into account, but beyond that, I confess I don’t much care. Obama’s politics are, and have been, ugly in the extreme: Dishonest, personal, vicious. Compared to that, noting that the whole post-racial feelgood vibe of 2008 was, to put it in ugly-but-true fashion, a complete and total lie, seems minor. Perhaps it will nonetheless alienate swing voters, but if swing voters are that easily alienated, and that immune to facts, then maybe it doesn’t matter anyway.

UPDATE: From the comments over at Ann’s blog:

Obama speaks racism in 2007 and I look ugly.

A black woman admits she sold her vote for a free cell phone, and I look ugly.

Obama takes over the UW Madison campus for a campaign event and I look ugly.

Christ almighty.

If you find this stuff ugly — in a way that reflects on Romney and his supporters — then I suggest that your reaction, however sincere, is actually evidence that you’re being played.

The Deliver Us From Evil post that anticipated this very dilemma. It used the metaphor of the Rubicon as a symbol for crossing the racial Red Line. The implicit bargain between the Democrats and the Republicans is that the race card belongs to the Democratic party. This bargain evolved over time until it became hallowed. Today it’s OK for them to play the race card, but not OK for the Republicans to do so.

Whatever you might think of this arrangement, that is the arrangement. It is the Rubicon. The problem is this. There is no apparent way to conquer Rome unless you cross the Rubicon. Once you cross that river then there’s no telling what will happen. In all probability hell will break loose. Beyond the Rubicon it is conquer or die. “Here peace, here broken laws be left; Farewell to treaties. Fortune, lead me on; War is our judge, and in the fates our trust.”

You can only go symmetrical on the Democrats by crossing the Red Line in both directions. But if you do that, then civility is gravely risked and all may be lost. That’s not a threat. That is probably what is going to happen. Because of this it has long been incumbent on conservatives to preserve the Republic by making allowances. Conservatives must retreat to preserve national unity; they must draw back to avoid racial tension. That’s the expectation. But no corresponding obligation exists on the Left.

Now you can conquer the house if you are willing to burn it down. The Left is certainly willing to burn it down. But to their credit — and perhaps to their folly — the conservatives have not been willing to torch it. After all you don’t want to “destroy the village in order to save it”. For them the United States is something worth preserving. To the Left it is something worth destroying. The dilemma is the consequence of this asymmetry.

What to do?

The way out that some have put forward is to wage counterinsurgency on the Left. To raise up conservative blacks and minorities to rebel against the plantation hegemony; to bring the issue down to the State level — the money level. To turn their own masses against them. You don’t play the race card. You play Lawrence of Arabia. De oppresso liber.

But if this is adjudged impossible then the Democrats will continue a very dangerous game. Last election it was New Black Panthers at the polling booth. Mid-term it was Occupy Wall Street shitting on police cars; anarchists plotting to blow up bridges. Always more and more provocation Object to this and you are ‘racist’. And yet you cannot cross the Rubicon.

My own view is that the counterinsurgency approach is far the better. Otherwise you say “f**k it” and once you do that there’s no way back. So my prediction is this: soon the papers will say “we call upon Governor Romney to repudiate this disgusting video. He knows that President Obama has never played the race card and should denounce this crude attempt to smear an honorable opponent. If Governor Romney does not, then his campaign will be in trouble.”

And you know what? Romney will apologize. He’ll grovel. He’ll crawl as low as dignity allows. He’ll do it because there’s enough decency in him to keep him from burning the house down. If it comes to a choice between losing the race and wrecking the country he’ll lose the race. And Obama is counting on him to do it.

C’mon Willard. Be a man. Do the right thing and grovel. You know you’re going to do it.

So if one is unwilling to cross the river, then raise up the revolt in the plantation. Otherwise you’ll finish up at the bottom of the Tarpeian Rock. When winning the obvious way is unacceptable, find another way.

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