EDITORIAL: Return of Democratic race-baiting

The party reprises an abandoned tactic from the ugly past

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The Democrats just can’t give up race-baiting. It worked for Democratic scoundrels in the South of yesteryear, and certain Democrats seem to aspire to scoundrelhood now. Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, a Democrat, gave in to frustration Wednesday when presiding over a hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee looking into how to deliver better value in health care. In a heated exchange with Sen. Ron Johnson, Wisconsin Republican, Mr. Rockefeller dismissed the idea that anyone could oppose Obamacare on legitimate grounds.

“They don’t want it to work because they don’t like the president,” Mr. Rockefeller said. “Maybe he’s the wrong color . It’s not something you’re meant to talk about in public, but it’s something I’m talking about in public because it’s very true.” So much for the post-racial America the president promised.

In his national debut as keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, Barack Obama cast himself as a post-racial uniter. He scolded “pundits [who] like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue states.” Alas, he obviously didn’t mean it.

Since he became president, he has sliced and diced Americans along lines of race, ethnicity, class and sex — whatever he needs to score cheap political points. The president traded the American melting pot for the pressure cooker.

He turned up the fire under the pressure cooker when he accused police in Cambridge, Mass., of acting “stupidly” in arresting a black Harvard professor who was thought to be breaking into what turned out to be his own home. He appointed a black attorney general who described America as “essentially a nation of cowards” for not discussing race as he thinks it should be discussed.

Last week, the first lady commemorated the 60th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education ruling finding the “separate but equal” doctrine in public education unconstitutional, suggesting to graduating high school students in Topeka, Kan., that legal segregation still afflicts us. Michelle Obama, like Eric Holder, knows better.

Charlie Crist, the white former Republican governor of Florida, who has to decide when he wakes up every morning whether he’s a Republican or Democrat for the day, says he feels “liberated” to be running for his old job as a Democrat. “I couldn’t be consistent with myself and my core beliefs, and stay with a party that was so unfriendly toward the African-American president.” Rep. Steve Israel, New York Democrat, insists “the Republican base does have elements that are animated by racism.”

Republican opposition to government medicine is not new. Republicans opposed it when it was proposed by a white woman in 1993 under the banner of Hillarycare. Obamacare is a bad idea because it’s a bad idea.

Democrats giving in to race-baiting when the going gets tough are abandoning Mr. Obama’s promise to restore civility in Washington. Mr. Rockefeller denies he meant to call Republicans racist, but such denials don’t work when everybody has a tape recorder. “Let’s play back the tape,” Sen. Ron Johnson, who bristled at the insult, told him. “We could do that,” replied Mr. Rockefeller, “but we’re not going to.” We all understand why.

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