Time For A Mickey Spat

Mickey Kaus claims that my Atlantic essay making the case for Obama is essentially the same as Ferraro's racist comment. But clearly, my case for Obama is rooted in his ability to transcend race, reframe our foreign policy, overcome the divisions of the boomer era and cast a new moderate light on our religious divisions. I don't think it's possible for anyone to read the piece - written when Obama was twenty to thirty points behind and given no chance against the inevitable Hillary - and think it was saying that the only reason Obama has been succeeding is because he's black or that the primary reason for his candidacy is his race. My point is that his complicated ethnic and international heritage makes him very well suited to project America's soft power to the world, if he becomes president, as well as helping to represent the next generation, whose views of ethnicity, race and identity are much more complicated than their parents'. My deeper point is that Obama's virtues as a politician - his ability to unite, his capacity for reason, his solid judgment and even temperament - have nothing to do with race at all.

To argue, as I did, that this mastery of complexity is a new and positive thing in our politics is obviously not the same thing as echoing Ferraro's racial and gender resentments about Obama's beating Clinton in the primaries. To argue that a teenager in Lahore would get this message instantly from Obama's face if he were president of the United States is not to say that Obama's candidacy is only successful because he's black. The most important point that teenage would get is not about Obama but about America: that we are not bound by racial or religious animosity, but open to all. And it would reflect Obama's capacity to transcend his race rather than exploit it.

Of course, Obama's race is a salient issue. We're human. Obama's skill has been in not denying that but in not exploiting it either for the purpose of identity politics. I guess this complicated point is lost on some, like Mickey. But I'm guessing others see what I'm arguing.