From an attempt to overturn racist laws, the war on racism had shifted to forcibly legislating big government's idea of racial equality. The goal was no longer removing inequality, but artificially creating a desired statistical outcome.
In 1965, LBJ introduced Affirmative Action as the "next and more profound stage of the battle for civil rights". The new goal was "not just equality as a right and a theory, but equality as a fact and as a result." And manufacturing equality first required manufacturing inequality to achieve a perfect balance. Equal opportunity in the free market was traded for an equal result in a planned racial economy. And it worked about as well as all planned economies do.
In the process, racism was conflated with socialism. Principled civil rights objections to government laws were the new racism. Obstructing the unlimited power of the Federal government had become the equivalent of bigotry. To truly support racial equality, one had to support racial inequality and to show one's opposition to past government racial laws, one had to support the new government racial laws meant to redress those laws... even 60 years later.
Racism had not only become an abstraction, it had become the abstraction of an abstraction, transcending race to fuse with attitudes toward government power returning to the old Civil War Republican formula of Federalism as anti-racism and States' Rights as racism. 150 years after the Civil War, federalism as anti-racism is a false formula imposed on a debate going back to the Washington Administration about where the center of political power should rest.
That formula is the one still being used to tar Republicans, who invented the formula of Federalism as Anti-Racism. In 1872, Thomas Nash was smearing abolitionist Horace Greeley as a racist for resisting Grant's Republican Federalism. In 2012, Nast's even nastier ideological descendants are treating any challenge to unlimited Federal power from Republicans as a cross burning on the White House lawn. If Nash was at least operating within a historical framework where Federal power was used to restrain racial violence, 140 years later those same attacks are the clothes of power worn over the frame of a naked cynicism.
Obama is neither Grant nor Eisenhower. When he wields unlimited power, race is only there to disguise the power of the naked emperor and his naked empire. Throughout the 20th Century, Democrats searched around for a compelling justification for seizing and wielding unlimited power the way that their Republican predecessors had.
Like Wilson, Obama abuses power in the name of wartime contingencies. Like FDR, he abuses power to combat an economic crisis. But mostly he uses the same excuse that his white predecessors used. Race.
Racism is no longer about race. Not when Bill Clinton was the first black president and Allen West is a racist for bringing fried chicken to a Congressional Black Caucus meeting. Liberalism is the new race, and it is a category that transcends and encompasses race. Liberalism defines race, allowing white liberals to be defined as black and black conservatives to be defined as white.
The race in racism is nothing but a symbol now, but since most people still assume that racism means hating black people, rather than questioning government power, it helps to have a half-black man around as a symbol of why abuses of government power are justified for the greater good of race relations.
Most people, black and white, don't understand the switch that has been pulled on them or that the racism being talked about is not the kind that involves a white man hitting a black man, but a debate over unlimited political power between two political parties, both of whom have at one time eroded the "States" part and emphasized the "United" part with a variety of justifications, among them that of treating black people as wards of the Federal government.
Racism accusations are delivered by white people speaking on behalf of black people and black people speaking on behalf of white people for an agenda that is not about race, but about power and wealth. These accusations have become increasingly ludicrous as they have become disconnected from actual racism and even from race.
On MSNBC, Lawrence O'Donnell insisted that "golfer" is a racial stereotype and Chris Matthews dubbed "Chicago" a racial codeword. Besides the obvious display of hackery, the search for codewords is a sign of how abstract racism has become. Racism is no longer a slur or a stereotype of a black man, but a criticism directed at a Democrat who happens to be black.
The decline of racism and the unholy union of race and government has turned it into a wholly abstract thing that may still be nourished by fond memories of civil rights marches and opposition to the DAR, but actually means nothing at all. The language of racism no longer has a coherent grammar. Racial accusations are everywhere, but they no longer mean anything because they have lost even their most tenuous connections to race.
Say any word often enough and it begins to lose its meaning, look at it long enough and it begins to look misspelled. In a world where "Chicago golfer" is a racial slur and a racial slur is in one of the country's bestselling songs, racial slurs no longer mean what they used to. The national grammar of race has shifted and while liberals talk incessantly about race, they have nothing to actually say about it.
Racism, for the most part, was never really about race, it was about power. It was about power when slave votes and slave labor were being used to shift the balance of power. And it is about power when black votes and accusations of racism are used to shift the balance of power. And in one of history's great ironies that renders PBS pieties so absurd, the same Party was responsible for both sets of actions. The ideology, whether that of the permanent racial inferiority of black people of yesterday's Democratic Party or the permanent social inferiority of black people in today's Democratic Party, was and is just the clothing that the naked emperor wears on his power trips.
Real racism is slowly dying out, but political racism can never go away. Instead it is rediscovered in ordinary words, in "Golfer" and in "Chicago." The more it declines, the more it emerges everywhere in dogwhistles and hidden codes that become more and more abstract until no one can find it anymore.