Beware the self-made man: he has neither patience nor mercy for citizens who can’t triumph like he has. I know good people for whom the period between their teens and early forties was a numbing accumulation of cents so that their children would themselves never have to accept menial labor for the sake of putting their own children in private schools. As a result, legitimate grievances from other members of society in worse straits don’t elicit sympathy; the response is closer to “Shut up and deal.” So committed are my acquaintances to this Horatio Alger trope that they have no clue — none — about how quickly they claim the status of victims. They drink from the well of right wing self-pity. They whine about how bad they have it: Obama, the smarter ones say, may not be socialist but he’s setting things up for a centralized economy. To live in this realm of victimhood requires a force field that repels facts. I can explain how a “socialist” would never nominate the former head of the New York Federal Reserve as secretary of the Treasury or Lawrence Summers to the Council of Economic Advisors: it doesn’t matter.
And so we get Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson pimping a 2007 speech in which Senator Barack Obama, speaking to a black audience, reminded them of how the federal government had failed them. Ta-Nehisi Coates shakes his head:
We imagine the American past as filled with rabid bigots. But there have always been at least as many people who have some sense that bigotry is wrong, though they may say nothing. And then there are a select few who are fairly clear on right and wrong, but simply see more upside in being wrong.
Today I read conservative bloggers and commenters expressing shock that a politician would want to affect the accent of the people he’s addressing and the race to which he belongs. Racial divisiveness, they said (I won’t link to the sites). They cannot understand how the race in power should at least think carefully before accusing traditionally oppressed races of “reverse racism.”