I am an admirer of Sean Wilentz as an historian. For months now, it has been my intention to comment on his brilliant synthesis, The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln (even more so since I began reading Daniel Walker Howe's brilliant rebuttal, from the Whig point of view, and closer to my way of thinking, What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848).

Notwithstanding, Professor Wilentz is a very political historian. And by that I don't mean he is primarily concerned with the history of dead white men; this is also true in part--but that is not my point. Sean Wilentz is an extreme Democratic Party partisan, who does not hesitate to bring his training, reputation, and rhetorical ability to bear in support of his deeply held political beliefs. For example, Professor Wilentz organized the "400 Historians Against Impeachment" back in 1998, which gave scholarly cover to the Clinton campaign to stay in office at all costs.

Almost always I disagree with Professor Wilentz's political crusades, and I have generally criticized his penchant for couching naked politics in scholarly drapery. However, his article published in the New Republic today offers staggeringly insightful analysis (read that to mean he agrees with me). In fact, he even borrows the same title (unknowingly) that I used a few days ago: "Race Man."

An excerpt from the Wilentz piece:

A review of what actually happened shows that the charges that the Clintons played the "race card' were not simply false; they were deliberately manufactured by the Obama camp and trumpeted by a credulous and/or compliant press corps in order to strip away her once formidable majority among black voters and to outrage affluent, college-educated white liberals as well as college students. The Clinton campaign, in fact, has not racialized the campaign, and never had any reason to do so. Rather the Obama campaign and its supporters, well-prepared to play the 'race-baiter card' before the primaries began, launched it with a vengeance when Obama ran into dire straits after his losses in New Hampshire and Nevada--and thereby created a campaign myth that has turned into an incontrovertible truth among political pundits, reporters, and various Obama supporters. This development is the latest sad commentary on the malign power of the press, hyping its own favorites and tearing down those it dislikes, to create pseudo-scandals of the sort that hounded Al Gore during the 2000 campaign. It is also a commentary on how race can make American politics go haywire. Above all, it is a commentary on the cutthroat, fraudulent politics that lie at the foundation of Obama's supposedly uplifting campaign.

Read this long article in full here. It is the most trenchant analysis to date concerning this exceedingly important question.