There is a phenomenon in American politics which is not exclusive to either party, what sometimes is called the fallacy of the appeal to authority.
On the political level it involves finding a heroic figure, and then wrapping him or her around an otherwise odious political message in order to insulate the message from criticism.
In the age of Obama that fallacy has played out around those who legitimately and in many cases heroicly fought state-sanctioned racism in the 1950s and 1960s.
The message which is odious is that Republicans want to return to segregation and other forms of state-sanctioned racism such as denial of voting to blacks.
It is a false and utterly vile form of racial politics which is given voice day in and day out by almost every host and commentator at MSNBC, and many Democratic politicians. Joe Biden said Republicans want to put “y’all back in chains” and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz has said that Republicans want to return to Jim Crow.
Yet the message needs more protection from scrutiny than the commentators at MSNBC, Wasserman-Schultz, or the Vice President can give it.
Enter John Lewis, a heroic figure from the civil rights struggles of the 1960s who increasingly has served as the authority to which Democrats fallaciously appeal to insulate their race card politics.
The speech at the DNC by Lewis recounted his history of being beaten, and then went into the political gutter by suggesting that Republicans wanted to go back to those days (h/t Gateway Pundit):
Sure enough, because Lewis made the suggestion that Republicans want to return to the early 1960s, writers like Charles Pierce at Esquire announced that Lewis’ heroics rendered others incapable of questioning Lewis’ authority:
And that is simply the way it is, and, if you don’t like the truth there, you’re welcome to get your brains nearly beaten out of you on the Edmund Pettus Bridge so you would begin to have the most basic qualifications to argue with John Lewis about it.
James Taranto correctly pegged this as “the most knuckleheaded appeal to authority….”
Lewis may have expertise and experience in the state-sanctioned racism of the 1960s, but he doesn’t know what he is talking about in 2012. If someone is to be the victim of state-sanctioned racism today or in the past couple of decades (if not further back than that), the victim almost certainly would not be African-American.
Today the state expressly sanctions, to the fullest level the Supreme Court will allow, racial preferences which favor African-Americans.
In 2012 the victim of state-sanctioned racism most likely will be of Asian descent, as the old quota systems applied to Ashkenazi Jews are applied in practice if not in theory, albeit in the name of diversity rather than exclusion.
The Party of state-sanctioned racism today is not the Republican Party, which is the party of judging people on their merits not on the color of their skin.
It’s a shame that John Lewis can’t see that, or doesn’t want to.