These days, liberals feel frustrated and vindicated all at the same time. They feel frustrated because President Obama’s second-term agenda is going nowhere, even on issues like immigration, gun control, and the minimum wage where he enjoys strong public support. They feel vindicated because Cliven Bundy and Donald Sterling are proving what liberals have long alleged: that despite Obama’s election, racism is alive and well.
This week, African-American Mississippi Representative Bennie Thompson conflated the two. “I never saw George Bush treated like this. I never saw Bill Clinton treated like this with such disrespect,” Thompson told a radio show. “That Mitch McConnell would have the audacity to tell the president of the United States … that ‘I don’t care what you come up with we’re going to be against it.’ Now if that’s not a racist statement I don’t know what is.”
For good measure, Thompson added that Clarence Thomas “doesn’t like black people, he doesn’t like being black.”
Yikes. First of all, Bennie Thompson has no idea how Clarence Thomas feels about being black, and should thus keep quiet on the subject. Commenting on the racial impact of Thomas’ jurisprudence is legitimate. Attributing that jurisprudence to self-hatred is not. There’s something totalitarian about claiming to know to know how another person feels about himself. And attacking someone’s private motivations is usually a way to avoid confronting his public arguments. Thompson wouldn’t appreciate it if hawks angry at his criticism of U.S. foreign policy called him a “self-hating American.” I doubt he has much sympathy for the right-wingers who call Jewish critics of Israeli policy “self-hating” Jews. (Welcome to my inbox.) Unfortunately, he’s doing exactly the same thing.