I observed in a blog a few days ago that the coming election would hinge on whether the Republicans would be able to get evangelicals to turn out to vote for an unwelcome Mitt Romney in larger numbers than the Democrats will be able to get blacks to turn out to vote for a President who hasn't done much for them.
I observed that I did not expect that the Republicans would play the race card. My theory was that the GOP would not play the race card out of fear that, if they did, it would lead to massive voter turnout of black and liberal voters who would vote for Barack Obama.
But try as I might, I was not cynical enough. I did not recognize that it would be the Democrats who would play the race card. They realized the same thing I did, that if race could be made an issue in the election, that it would benefit Barack Obama, perhaps decisively.
It had not occurred to me that the Democrats would not wait for the Republicans to play the race card, but would play it themselves.
I had not heard of the Trayvon Martin - George Zimmerman controversy when I wrote that blog. When I did learn of it, I was confused about how a garden-variety altercation-homicide could morph into a national cause celebre.
According to the US Census there are around 13,000 murders in the United States every year. What makes this one so special? Nothing about the Martin-Zimmerman case suggests that it was anything but two thugs getting into a fight in the course of which one of them was killed. Nothing could be more ordinary. The common-ness and ordinariness of such events are precisely why people work so hard to accumulate enough money to move out of the neighborhoods where such things regularly happen. What makes this particular homicide more newsworthy than the other 12,999 that will happen this year?
Earlier this week there was a multiple homicide in San Francisco in which 5 people were brutally murdered. That case has already faded to a conventional crime blotter story. Why has the Trayvon Martin - George Zimmerman case not similarly faded into the same obscurity as the San Francisco murders? That there is a layer of crime and sordid nastiness in our society is scarcely news. Why are the networks all over this story as though it were the outbreak of war? What accounts for the difference? Why is this homicide different than all the other homicides?
There is no end to the blather and the pointless trial in the press, the endless testifying by people with no first hand knowledge, the heated discussion by partisans of one side or the other, none of it mediated by the rules of evidence, none of it leading to a charge or conviction. I have seen journalists openly insult one another on the air (Piers Morgan of CNN and Toure Something of MSNBC) because of it. It is all just pointless chatter since none of it can lead to a conviction nor a sentence. Or is it?
One of those quoted on the subject was a political official who observed that, if he had had a son, that that son would look a lot like Trayvon Martin. That political official was the President of the United States, Barack Obama.
Could the playing of the race card have been any more explicit? "I am black like you." is the import of the President's remark to black voters. "And those damned crackers are still shooting blacks - and (sotto voce) you ought to turn out to vote for me because otherwise the George Zimmermans of the world will continue to shoot people like you and Trayvon Martin - and me."
The appeal to racial grievances and animosity implicit in the magnification of a dime-a-dozen homicide into a national debate could not be more explicit. Who is responsible for this pretense that something has happened, when in fact nothing has happened?
The question that appears is, "Why have the networks decided that the Trayvon Martin - George Zimmerman case is a huge news story when everything about it suggests that it is in no way distinguishable from the other 12,999 homicides that will happen this year?"
It would be an insult to everyone's intelligence to suggest that the government called up the CEO's of the various networks and ordered them to devote endless hours of air time to the case. That did not happen. The network chiefs, partisan to the bone, jumped on it on their own.
Whoever discovered the case realized early on that a case of someone shooting a black under murky circumstances is perfect for inflaming black racial feelings. The only thing that could make it more perfect would be to find a way to avoid alienating whites while stirring up blacks. What would make it perfect would be for the shooter to be neither black nor white. Enter George Zimmerman, a Spanish-speaking half Peruvian Hispanic.
What we are seeing is the Democrats making a national issue of a trashy homicide between two specimens of trailer trash, two petty criminals. By inflaming blacks about racism, they are mobilizing their base.
If I may speak personally here, and why shouldn't I, it is my blog after all? I make a point of being cynical to protect myself from the pain and depression in how cynical and corrupt the system and everyone in power in it are. I am cynical also because it is the most consistent theory of explanation of how and why people and things work the way they do.
But try as I might, I was not cynical enough to foresee that it would be the Democrats rather than the Republicans who would play the race card. It is to their advantage to mobilize the black vote and increase black voter turnout. They have not been slow to seek what is to their advantage. It apparently does not matter a whit to them that they will damage the fabric of the nation, that it will increase racial polarization after two generations of people of good will trying to reduce it. It had not occurred to me that the Democrats, the party of FDR and John Kennedy, would be the sleazier and more anti-national of our two crappy parties.
My only excuse for being naive even into old age is that I was raised in the country. In spite of fifty years in the city, I am still a bumpkin at heart. But I don't need to apologize to you for my naivete. It takes professional political cynics to come up with something as sleazy as publicizing the Trayvon Martin - George Zimmerman case. It takes full-time professional political strategists.
In 1988 Republican sleazeballs gave whites Willie Horton to play on their fear of blacks to elect George Herbert Walker Bush. In 2012 Democrats have given blacks George Zimmerman to play on their fear of whites to re-elect Barack Obama. No matter how cynical one tries to be, one can never be cynical enough.
My rule about American politics is confirmed yet again. My rule is that the Republicans are cynical selfish despicable bastards, and the Democrats are cynical selfish despicable bastards.