Predictable as rain, the race card has surfaced just in time to stir up electoral passions, justify outcomes and explain inconvenient truths.
Just days from Election Day, the zeitgeist belched up one of its least attractive -- and least defensible -- memes. (Was it the weather?)
Pre-emptive theories, in no particular order, include: Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama because they are both black (according to Romney surrogate John Sununu); if Obama loses Florida, North Carolina and Virginia, all of which voted for him in 2008, the old Confederacy will be restored (Daily Beast commentator Andrew Sullivan); Americans still harbor racial bias even if they don't know it (recent online poll, Associated Press).
Anyone reading headlines related to the poll might infer that white Americans are biased against black Americans. Extrapolating, given the current election season, it follows that if some voters prefer Romney, it is because Obama is African-American.
But a review of the poll reveals something not quite so definitive or sinister. Overall, the findings suggest most Americans are moderate, fair-minded and for the most part don't see things one way or the other based on race.
Some of the questions themselves, on the other hand, were unnecessarily provocative and biased.
For example, participants in the AP online poll were asked whether they agree or disagree with the following statements: "Irish, Italians, Jewish and other minorities overcame prejudice and worked their way up. Blacks should do the same without special favors."
What kind of question is this? Who doesn't believe that everyone should work his or her way up? The underlying assumption is blatantly racist, implying as it does that blacks don't work and do expect special favors.
It is heartening that the majority, perhaps perceiving the trap, neither strongly agreed nor disagreed.
The lengthy poll posed similar questions about other races and ethnicities. I selected these two because they were among the most egregiously biased and were most pertinent to the election.
What happened? Did all those people who voted for Obama in 2008 suddenly become racist? Or have they lost confidence in Obama four years later? Obama had a 70 percent approval rating early in his administration. Did all those people suddenly become racist?
We are not a nation naive enough to think race plays no part in our perceptions and responses. And where there are humans, there will be racists. But this nation also elected an African-American as its president. By an overwhelming majority, Americans liked him and wanted him to succeed.
If Obama loses, it will be his own undoing. Meanwhile, no one questions why 95 percent of blacks support the president. Is it racial? Or is it simply that most African-Americans happen to be Democrats?
Sununu implied the former, hinting that Powell chose Obama out of racial loyalty. I wish Sununu hadn't gone there. Had Powell endorsed Romney, he'd be a GOP hero, just as he now is to Democrats who have managed to overlook his convincing support for the weapons of mass destruction hypothesis in Iraq.
So it goes. But even the netherworld of politics should have standards. To pre-emptively label people racist for favoring a candidate who happens to be white, and otherwise advancing a narrative that will create only racial animus should Obama lose, is implicitly biased, unfair and a breach of good faith. Stop it.
Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist. Contact her at email@example.com.