Silly season is over. Racist season is here.
Silly season is when nothing is going on in the presidential campaign and the debate focuses on trivialities. Racist season is when the campaign begins in earnest and President Barack Obama looks vulnerable. Then, liberal commentators pull out all the stops to deem practically any criticism of the president racist.
Chris Matthews of MSNBC led the charge with an on-set rant against Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. Criticizing the gutting of welfare reform? Racist. GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney's joke about no one ever asking for his birth certificate? Racist, too. Saying the president is inspired by a European welfare-state model? Obviously racist.
It's early September, and the campaign is tied. Wait until October, especially if Obama is trailing. In the imaginations of the president's devotees, an America where he is behind by 2 or 3 points will be indistinguishable from an America where blacks are set on by dogs during civil-rights marches.
When Romney joked in Michigan that no one ever had to ask for his birth certificate, it was a banner day in the racist season. Michael Eric Dyson, who apparently earned an advanced degree in finding obscure ways to accuse people of bigotry, detected the telltale signs of "othering."
"Other" used to be a perfectly fine word, then became jargon fit for use only by people with regular MSNBC gigs or endowed chairs in nonsense.
Dyson, however, lacks the creativity of Thomas Edsall, a Columbia Journalism School professor. Edsall wrote a blog post for The New York Times contending that, by attacking Obama for cutting Medicare to pay for "Obamacare," the Romney campaign is engaged in a politics of "racially freighted resource competition."
There is a consensus among Democrats and the media that Romney's attacks on Obama for "gutting" welfare reform are out-of-bounds and racially charged.
This, too, is wrong. Obama has altered the welfare-reform law fundamentally. The section of the law imposing the work requirements was written to be unwaivable. The Obama administration unlawfully claims authority to waive it.
Imagine that a Republican administration claimed authority to waive the entitlement status of Medicare and Medicaid. Wouldn't Democrats accuse that administration of "gutting" those entitlements?
Work is not some racist code. It's a core American value. Ninety-seven percent of conservatives thought able-bodied welfare recipients should be required to work or prepare for work, according to a 2009 Heritage Foundation poll. Ninety-two percent of liberals agreed.
The usual suspects probably consider this universal sentiment a form of prejudice. What a dim view they take of their countrymen. They believe the American public is keenly attuned to racist dog whistles and – though they elected Obama with 53 percent and still like him personally – is ready to reject him partly because he's an African-American.
The silly season can occasionally be fun. The racist season is rancid.