"It's time to take back America," the speaker shouted at a Labor Day rally. This particular screamer was not a Tea Partier or a rabid Republican, but the Vice President of the United States. Just who does Joe Biden want to take the country back from? His party controls the White House, the Senate, and all the levers of government.
But whatever he meant, and with Biden it can sometimes be hard to tell, he was not saying anything that hasn't been said by scores of other Democrats over the years, including Howard Dean, Hillary Clinton and President Obama himself. When George W. Bush was in office they demanded that the country be "taken back," and no one batted an eye.
But in January of 2009 the USA entered a Bizarro World where everything was inverted. Suddenly the wish to take back the country, when invoked by conservatives, was transformed into a not-very-thinly-veiled appeal to raw racism. Al Sharpton detected a "racial component" in the phrase, while columnist Eugene Robinson keenly perceived a "racial dimension." Robinson also made a blatant error, saying, "This rallying cry arose after the first African American family moved into the White House." False, Mr. Robinson, provably and demonstrably false! What happened to fact-checkers at the Washington Post?
But Sharpton and Robinson are merely a charlatan and a left-wing columnist, not-so-respectfully. Far worse is the Attorney General of the United States, our nation's chief law enforcement officer, echoing the same divisive and specious complaint. "People talk about taking their country back," Eric Holder groused recently, adding, "There is a certain racial component to this for some people."
As we witnessed in Missouri last month, our country has enough racial divisions without Eric Holder throwing lighter fluid on the fire. To him and the other racial arsonists, accusations of racism are a way of explaining to your political opponents, "Shut Up!"
But screaming "racism" all day long is redolent of the boy who cried "wolf." When a Canis Lupus really did come along, no one believed the young man. And now, sketchy or false charges of "racism" are tossed around so recklessly that it can obscure genuine racial animus.
Race is often described as America's fault line, and the description remains apt, despite the presence of black men in the Oval Office and atop the Justice Department. Even today – perhaps especially today – Americans should shun the race hustlers who are so eager to take offense at every comment. Opposition to ObamaCare is "racist," they say, as are condemnations of the IRS and just about every other criticism of the Obama administration.
Back in 2004, Al Gore said, "We need to take back our country," and Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry similarly declared, "It's time to take back our country." That same year radical leftist Katrina vanden Heuvel actually wrote a book called "Taking Back America." No one blinked, no one complained, nor should they have. It was just a hoary expression from the opposition party.
So ol' Joe Biden should be able to employ a political phrase without anyone questioning his motives. And maybe a Tea Partier can get the same break from Sharpton, Robinson, Holder, and the other arbiters of racial sensitivity. Let's reserve accusations of "racism" for the real thing.