Christopher Hitchens is a real character: he may not be the most appealing guy to Huckabee's evangelical Kool-Aid drinkers (who if they had any sense of history would be voting for Fred...), but man can Hitchens ever write.
And, as a person whose political journey started on the Left (e.g. The New Republic), Hitchens' own Liberalism has evolved to the point where it is more akin to the "Classical Liberalism" of the founders than it is to anything going on with small l "liberals" these days. In fact it is not a stretch to state that there appears to be very little at all that Hitchens finds appealing about the present day American Left; witness his wonderful column in the Wall Street Journal about Clinton, Obama, and Identity Politics run amok:
Read the whole thing; it is way too much fun to ignore.
People who think with their epidermis or their genitalia or their clan are the problem to begin with. One does not banish this specter by invoking it. If I would not vote against someone on the grounds of "race" or "gender" alone, then by the exact same token I would not cast a vote in his or her favor for the identical reason. Yet see how this obvious question makes fairly intelligent people say the most alarmingly stupid things.
Madeleine Albright has said that there is "a special place in hell for women who don't help each other." What are the implications of this statement? Would it be an argument in favor of the candidacy of Mrs. Clinton? Would this mean that Elizabeth Edwards and Michelle Obama don't deserve the help of fellow females? If the Republicans nominated a woman would Ms. Albright instantly switch parties out of sheer sisterhood? Of course not. (And this wearisome tripe from someone who was once our secretary of state . . .)
Those of us who follow politics seriously rather than view it as a game show do not look at Hillary Clinton and simply think "first woman president." We think -- for example -- "first ex-co-president" or "first wife of a disbarred lawyer and impeached former incumbent" or "first person to use her daughter as photo-op protection during her husband's perjury rap."
One might come up with other and kinder distinctions (I shall not be doing so) but the plain fact about the senator from New York is surely that she is a known quantity who has already been in the White House purely as the result of a relationship with a man, and not at all a quixotic outsider who represents the aspirations of an "out" group, let alone a whole sex or gender.
Mrs. Clinton, speaking to a black church audience on Martin Luther King Day last year, did describe President George W. Bush as treating the Congress of the United States like "a plantation," adding in a significant tone of voice that "you know what I mean . . ."
She did not repeat this trope, for some reason, when addressing the electors of Iowa or New Hampshire. She's willing to ring the other bell, though, if it suits her. But when an actual African-American challenger comes along, she rather tends to pout and wince at his presumption (or did until recently).
Here again, the problem is that Sen. Obama wants us to transcend something at the same time he implicitly asks us to give that same something as a reason to vote for him. I must say that the lyricism with which he does this has double and triple the charm of Mrs. Clinton's heavily-scripted trudge through the landscape, but the irony is still the same.
What are we trying to "get over" here? We are trying to get over the hideous legacy of slavery and segregation. But Mr. Obama is not a part of this legacy. His father was a citizen of Kenya, an independent African country, and his mother was a "white" American. He is as distant from the real "plantation" as I am. How -- unless one thinks obsessively about color while affecting not to do so -- does this make him "black"?
Far from taking us forward, this sort of discussion actually keeps us anchored in the past. The enormous advances in genome studies have effectively discredited the whole idea of "race" as a means of categorizing humans. And however ethnicity may be defined or subdivided, it is utterly unscientific and retrograde to confuse it with color. The number of subjective definitions of "racist" is almost infinite but the only objective definition of the word is "one who believes that there are human races."