Summertime, and the race cards are easy.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson has accused the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers of racism, for treating multigazillionaire basketball star LeBron James like a "runaway slave."
This is the same James who will become his own billion-dollar marketing franchise in South Beach. If only slavery were so sweet.
And the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People played a big race card, accusing the libertarian-leaning tea party movement of harboring racists.
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Meanwhile, the political right is accusing the Obama administration of racism for dropping a complaint against a black thug with a club in the New Black Panther Party who allegedly intimidated white voters at the polls in Philadelphia.
With so many race cards in the air, any day now Attorney General Eric Holder might just accuse Americans of being cowards when it comes to race, right after we elect the first African-American president of the United States.
Oops. My bad.
That one already happened, didn't it?
Jackson spent decades crying racism, even when there wasn't any, and sometimes leveraged the race card for his benefit. That boycott against a beer company that ended with a beer distributorship for his sons sure was a beauty, wasn't it?
It's taken years, but Americans have finally tuned Jackson out.
There was a time when all he had to do was even think about holding a protest, and TV news cameras would gather like flocks of ravenous pigeons before the bag lady with the big sack of popcorn.
Offenders targeted by the Rev would fall to their knees, quivering like a Jell-O mold with the horrid floating pineapple chunks.
The offenders would beg forgiveness, rush off to some Orwellian Sensitivity School and ask if there was some group to which they could write sizable checks in the name of fairness and equity.
Bulletin: Americans have already stepped over the great racial divide in 2008, by electing a president who happened to be African-American.
So now, when Jackson whines that a professional entertainer easily worth a billion dollars in salary and marketing deals was treated like a slave, most of us yawn.
A few plucky souls might even lift their beer in a toast and say, "Hey, Rev? This Bud ain't no dud. This Bud's for you."
Now the NAACP, an organization with a historic role in civil rights, seems to be taking Jackson's path to irrelevancy.
At its national convention in Kansas City, Mo., the NAACP offered a resolution condemning what it calls "racist elements" in the anti-big government tea party movement.
"You must expel the bigots and racists in your ranks or take full responsibility for all of their actions," NAACP president Benjamin Jealous said.
Let me hazard a guess here. Some critics of President Obama don't like him because he has black skin. They might invoke other issues, but the black skin thing bothers them.
Conversely, some Obama supporters like him because he's black. They might talk about other issues, but it's the black skin that compels them.
But for the NAACP to condemn the tea party as racist — and the point of the resolution was to put the libertarian movement on the political defensive — isn't only wrong, it's wrongheaded.
I'm no member of the group, but from what I can tell, tea party supporters aren't a bunch of absolute racists.
They're a bunch of absolute heretics.
They're heretics because they distrust and oppose a federal government that keeps growing, telling people how to live and what to do, no matter what party is in power. They're opposed to Democratic tax increases and Republican borrowing. And they want the government to stop gorging.
The heresy of tea partiers is that they're not asking government for anything except to leave them alone. That's what frightens liberal Democrats and corporate Republicans and confounds much of the news media.
Such heresy is also highly threatening to groups that leverage government for access or "outreach" or whatever. The smaller the government, the smaller the pie and the smaller the slice.
And when groups demand that government use skin color to hand out benefits — in the form of contracts, promotions, hiring and so on — what do you call that exactly?
I thought so.
Our latest summertime controversy about race has little to do with real racism.
Americans are smart enough to see real racism and call it out and condemn it.
What we're seeing are politicians who plan to tame the tea party coming to the movement's defense — Republicans like Sarah Palin who want those votes.
And we're seeing the NAACP helping the White House by using the race card to inoculate the all-important independent vote — the same vote slipping steadily away from Obama — from the tea party heresy.
It is the politics of symbolism and rhetoric, funneling Americans into groups, priming them for the midterm elections in November.
This looks like the old broken politics of the past, not Obama's promised politics of transcendence. Actually, it looks an awful lot like Chicago politics, the city of tribes.
And there are a little more than 100 days until the polls open Nov. 2.
Enjoy the summer.