As Professor Jacobson wrote on Saturday,  the Herman Cain SuperPAC is running this race-card-playing ad.

Other GOP commentators, especially Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh, have also been making statements along these lines.  This is wrong, especially coming from solid conservative voices.

To play the race card in this fashion, with such insufficient evidence (liberals/Politico would have sat on this story if it was about a white Republican frontrunner? Or wouldn’t have bothered to dig it up? Really?), is to create a bipartisan, spectrum-spanning consensus that you can’t criticize a black man without being called a racist.

And no, extremists like Harry Belafante, Al Sharpton, and Cornell West saying extreme things about race isn’t evidence that Cain’s critics are motivated by racism.  It’s evidence that all is normal with the world. If they stopped saying extreme things about race, that would be news.

Black people make mistakes like everyone else.  Our current black president makes quite a lot of them, much to our country’s detriment. And while he has so far damaged only his campaign, any fair-minded observer should notice that Cain himself is quite prone to errors. To hold the threat of the race card over everyone who wants to criticize public figures who happen to be black is both unfair and destructive.

Furthermore, it shifts the frame of the race issue into territory that is bad for conservatives.  As seems to be the case with OWS, our desire to hit the left back in kind is making us lose sight of the need to control the narrative.  In using this tactic, conservatives make the discussion about racism while conceding that there is a lot of it. The question of just how prevalent racism is in America is key to the differences between liberals and conservatives on the matter of race.  By claiming that it is rampant, we concede an important point for the momentary satisfaction of a gotcha soundbite.