"In a book that aspires to be, and largely succeeds in being, the dispositive (or do I mean definitive?) account of the election, that may be the most remarkable fact of all," writes Michael Kinsley in a review of Mark Halperin and John Heilemann's new book (which follows on their "Game Change," about the 2008 election).
Most of the review mocks their idiosyncratic writing style, which apparently inexplicably uses weird words — like "acuminate" and "coriaceous" — when normal words would do and distractingly substitutes nicknames — like "the Bay Stater" and "the Palmetto State" — when normal people would just say Romney, South Carolina, and so forth.
Kinsley also observes that the story of the 2012 election is so much less interesting than 2008. Do you even want to read a book about all the little details? Didn't we bat them around from day to day as they unfolded and while we were still thinking about what to do and in a position to influence others? The "Game Change" approach is a throwback to the old "Making of a President" series. Why do we need that today? Halperin and Heilemann did do a lot of interviews, so they can pass on, for example, lots of things Karl Rove would like to frame for your consumption. And they have at least one new-looking nugget: at least some thought was given to replacing Biden with Hillary on the Democratic ticket.
But I want to focus on this assertion that race played virtually no role in the 2012 campaign. Is that really true? I have a "racial politics" tag — it's one of my most frequently used tags — and I was observing the daily news throughout the years leading up to the November 2012 election. Here are the stories — relating only to the presidential campaigns — that jumped out at me (in reverse chronological order):
"Pre-assembling the excuses for Obama's defeat tomorrow. At Politico (with an 'if')... It all comes back to race..."
"The AP reports an increase in racial prejudice since 2008 (based on research that is at least somewhat scientific).... I'm guessing that AP thinks this material is helpful to Obama, perhaps guilt-tripping Americans into voting for Obama as a way to say I'm not racist."
"'Tragically, it seems the president feels boxed in by his blackness.'... Email from Tavis Smiley to NYT reporter Jodi Kantor, quoted in "For President, a Complex Calculus of Race and Politics."
"Shameful, lowly race-baiting... but who's doing it? So somebody got a picture of the back of a man — no face, no name — in a T-shirt that says — on the back — 'Put the White Back in the White House.'"
"Biden 'will surely take it to Ryan on... his statement yesterday that inner-city kids need to be taught "good discipline" and "character."' Writes John Cassidy, in The New Yorker, observing that tonight's VP debate is high stakes."
"'You’re an unemployed black woman endorsing @MittRomney. You’re voting against yourself thrice. You poor beautiful idiot.' Twitter pushback against Stacey Dash, an actress who tweeted 'vote for Romney. The only choice for your future.'"
"'Just How Racist Is the 'Obama Phone' Video?'... Decent people whose rational minds would reject explicit racial material can be emotionally manipulated. They get their fears stirred up. If this is what Romney supporters think they need to do to get their man elected, I hope they fail."
"'Black Woman Gets Standing Ovation at RNC — Media Silence; Two Bozos Throw Peanuts — Media Frenzy.' 2 incidents..."
"Who's playing the playing-the-race-card card? It's hard to tell who, if anybody, is playing the race card. But lots of people are playing the playing-the-race-card card.
"'No one's ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place where we were born and raised.'... I'm seeing some charges that this was a "birther" joke and even that it was racist."
"Romney and Ryan are 'two look-alike white guys with aggressively groomed hair.' Says Robin Givhan..."
"'I’d like to feel sorry for NBC for coming under such a plainly false accusation of racial intent. Except it’s what NBC does to others all the time, including when dealing with Mitt Romney....'"
"'Culture Does Matter,' writes Mitt Romney... pushing back efforts to make it seem racist to say that nations prosper when their culture has certain qualities that Israel has and the Palestinians lack."
"Racializing Romney. The press is."
"The GOP's 'most dangerous' ad: 'He tried. You tried. It’s OK to make a change.'... 'I’ve received more than a few e-mails and tweets from folks complaining that they are branded racist if they disagree with anything the president says or does....'"
"'Mr. President, take your campaign of division and anger and hate back to Chicago.' Romney responds to some sheer idiocy from Biden.... 'Romney wants to... unchain Wall Street,' Biden said. 'They’re going to put y’all back in chains.'"
"Matt Taibbi 'wants conservatives to conceal their views for fear of being seen as racist — to act as if they are guilty.'"
"'[I]f they want more stuff from government tell them to go vote for the other guy — more free stuff.'... This is a Romney quote that is getting a lot of play right now, notably from Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone, who goes all racial... 'If you live long enough, you’ll see some truly gross things in politics, but Mitt Romney’s work this past week 'courting black support' was enough to turn even the strongest stomach.'"
"Why is the Condi-for-VP rumor being floated?... It helps offset the story about Romney getting booed at the NAACP convention, which conveyed the vague message that Romney has nothing to offer black people."
"Nancy Pelosi says Mitt Romney wanted to get booed at the NAACP convention. It was 'a calculated move.'"
"Why did the NYT publish a very long article on the white people in Michelle Obama's ancestry?"
"Eric Holder 'implies that Jim Crow is on the cusp of a comeback' — why?... 'Mr. Holder's Council of Black Churches address is merely the latest of his election-year moves that charge racial discrimination of one kind or another.'
"NYT digs back 3 years into the photo files to find something super-sentimental... in a touching effort at boosting the Obama reelection campaign." (Photo of Obama bending over to let a small black child feel his hair.)
"'Black Mormons and the Politics of Identity.' Another NYT article about Mormons and the presidential election."
"The NYT accuses American voters of opposing Obama because he's black."
"'Herman Cain Played the Race Card, But Liberals Are the Ones Who Dealt It.'"
"Adam Serwer doubles down on race after WaPo played its embarrassingly weak race card on Rick Perry.... And the Democratic template is to reassure Democrats that the Republicans have a race problem. That's what the Washington Post was doing, and that's what Serwer is doing now."
"'Lots of photos of Perry having nothing whatsoever to do with this story, and not a single one of the rock. Well done, WP!' The first comment at a Washington Post article about how Rick Perry, early in his career, used to host events at a hunting camp where there was a rock that had the word 'Niggerhead' painted on it."
"A 'more insidious form of racism' — replacing the old 'naked, egregious and aggressive' racism — is now undermining Barack Obama. As perceived in The Nation by polisci prof Melissa Harris-Perry.... Harris-Perry, applying some standard political science tests and failing to detect racism, says 'electoral racism cannot be reduced solely to its most egregious, explicit form. It has proved more enduring and baffling than these results can capture.'"
"'Democrats must be in trouble if The Daily Beast is running a headline "White Supremacist Stampede"... Nine white supremacist candidates? In the whole country? With its multi-hundred million dollar endowment, [The Southern Poverty Law Center] only could find nine candidates?'"
"Why did Cornel West call Obama 'a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats'?"
"The NYT calls the 'birther' issue 'a baseless attack with heavy racial undertones.'"
"NPR exec Ron Schiller on the Tea Party: 'they believe in sort of white, middle-America gun-toting. I mean, it’s scary. They’re seriously racist, racist people.'"