Now Jimmy Carter is joining the "Joe Wilson's Outburst Was About Race" chorus. While using the "race card" to stifle criticism of the president is a concern, perhaps there's a silver lining? Perhaps there is a growing realization that, when it comes to pretty much everything, it's all about race?
Obama himself is all about race - he's nothing without his race - he'd be just another boring guy of above-average intelligence whom no one's ever heard of. Crime is all about race. Education is all about race. Government spending and taxation are all about race. The securitized-mortgage calamity was all about race. Income inequality is all about race. Is health care all about race? It's largely an issue of who pays for it vs. who benefits from it, and so like all such conundrums it too boils down to race. ... And, obviously, there's immigration.
Non-Asian minorities have lower average achievement levels economically (lower median income), in education (test scores, graduation rates). They have higher rates of street crime, of poor health effects (obesity, hypertension) and illegitimacy. These differences are statistically significant and, more important, noticeable to pretty much everyone on each side, particularly to people like Obama who are much higher achievers than average. The question is how do you respond to these differences - resentfully or practically? Immigration greatly exacerbates these divides because it results in very large increases in the numbers of one underachieving group (Mexican-Americans). And when it comes to contentious issues like universal health care, it's a problem that places like Canada - or Vermont - don't have to wrestle with. So, yes, Joe Wilson's outburst ultimately finds its genesis in race - but so does pretty much every other controversy that pops up in this racially divided nation.
Obviously, race -- a question of who is related to whom -- is hardly the only way that humans divide themselves, but it's among the most pervasively salient to politics, especially as the racial balance in the electorate becomes less one-sided.
Therefore, we'd be better off with a political culture that openly asks "Whose side are you on?" versus the alternatives -- the Chicago style of "Who sent you?" and the current dominant culture of covert "Who? Whom?" quasi-thinking.
For example, Sen. Barack Obama spent most of 2007 running for President, but he found time out from campaigning to donate $26,270 to Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr.'s church. Yet, none of the hundreds of journalists assigned to Sen. Obama ever seemed to find time to ask him "Whose side are you on?"
P.S. We keep hearing about all the "crazies" coming out of the woodwork of the Republican Party, yet the President of the United States gave $53,770 to Rev. Wright's church after he'd been elected to U.S. Senate.