George Will, the Washington Post’s moderately somnolent Guy Who Watches Baseball And Reads Thesauruses, has decided that the story of Frank Robinson is the perfect one to explain the presidential election.
Obama’s administration is in shambles, yet he is prospering politically. This may not, however, entirely be evidence of the irrationality of the electorate. Something more benign may be at work.
A significant date in the nation’s civil rights progress involved an African American baseball player named Robinson, but not Jackie. The date was Oct. 3, 1974, when Frank Robinson, one the greatest players in history, was hired by the Cleveland Indians as the major leagues’ first black manager. But an even more important milestone of progress occurred June 19, 1977, when the Indians fired him. That was colorblind equality.
Managers get fired all the time. The fact that the Indians felt free to fire Robinson — who went on to have a distinguished career managing four other teams — showed that another racial barrier had fallen: Henceforth, African Americans, too, could enjoy the God-given right to be scapegoats for impatient team owners or incompetent team executives.
Finally, in 1977, black people gained the ability to be scapegoats! This was a status long aspired to by African Americans, who had desired shitty treatment in jobs their bosses didn’t really think they were qualified for, but were never able to attain it. “Mabel,” a hypothetical black person would say to their hypothetical black friend Mabel, “I been prayin’ to the Lord day in and day out for so many days that he would PLEASE LORD give me the opportunity to manage a terrible Major League franchise and then get fired because I was the easiest person to blame. Oh, well. Back to this sharecroppin’! My back sure does hurt somethin’ fierce!”
Thankfully, though, Barack Obama is receiving gentler treatment than Mr. Robinson:
Perhaps a pleasant paradox defines this political season: That Obama is African American may be important, but in a way quite unlike that darkly suggested by, for example, MSNBC’s excitable boys and girls who, with their (at most) one-track minds and exquisitely sensitive olfactory receptors, sniff racism in any criticism of their pin-up. Instead, the nation, which is generally reluctant to declare a president a failure — thereby admitting that it made a mistake in choosing him — seems especially reluctant to give up on the first African American president. If so, the 2012 election speaks well of the nation’s heart, if not its head.
Remember, kids: it’s not racist to scapegoat a black person for your own failures. It is, however, racist (but benignly so!) to keep a Democratic president in office when Republicans think he’s the Worst Black Muslim Socialist Ever.
America, our mission is clear: we must aspire to be the mid-1970s Cleveland Indians, a franchise so bad that it eventually inspired the film Major League. FIRE ALL THE NEGROES.Related