By Alan Nathan
Published April 1, 2008

The saddest trait strangling both Democrats and Republicans is their mutual refusal to execute any capacity for self-appraisal. Worsening this shortcoming is their respective application of moveable standards whenever their behavior is challenged. Consequently, each party gives a pass to their own for offenses they would never tolerate from others. Enter the centrists, who can embrace the best of both, reject the worst of each and consider solutions surmised by neither because they're not obligated to carry the water of either party's orthodoxy.

We're hearing much these days about the need for greater bipartisanship from presidential candidates Sens. Barack Obama, Illinois Democrat, Hillary Clinton, New York Democrat and John McCain, Arizona Republican. Mr. Obama has emphasized this most by saying, "We need a leader who can finally move beyond the divisive politics of Washington and bring Democrats, independents and Republicans together to get things done."

But how plausible is this pursued unity if it's contingent upon everyone's compromise but his own? Most illustrative of these moveable standards is candidate conduct on racial matters. The issue of racism has come to the fore because of Mr. Obama's pastor and spiritual leader of 20 years, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, who venomously hurled bigoted comments against contemporary whites for the sins of their forefathers. However, his other quotations are now more familiar. Such as: "What's going on in white America — US of KKK- A"; "The government lied about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color"; and, "We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye."

This last gem ignores the fact that we had been in what still constitutes the deadliest war of all time and that black soldiers in addition to their white compatriots were spared more casualties because we brought Japan to its knees. At the time, every indicator had suggested that the Land of the Rising Sun would not stop fighting until it perceived that all hope for victory was unambiguously lost.

It is true that Mr. Obama rejected his pastor's anti-white zealotry. But through the art of moveable standards, Mr. Obama sought to equate them with his white grandmother's views as she "Once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street" and "on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe." Spare me. It is the epitome of apple-orange comparison to assert a mythical equivalency between the public racial slurs of a community leader and the privately admitted bigotry of a relative.

All I can say to Rev. Wright's supporters is that you can't become the very thing you attack and still be taken seriously.

Not to be outdone, too many white candidates, and their supporters, seem to operate in a vacuum forgetting that African American frustration is the very undercurrent that has given political ammunition to those of ill will. From 1932 to 1972, over 600 African American males were subjected to clinical trials that tracked how syphilis kills when left untreated. The government accomplished this by simply never telling their patients they had the disease so that doctors could assess and analyze their slow torturous demise — all in the name of science!

These racist, practically Frankenstein-level exercises, along with the lynching, social degradation and economic marginalizing of the African American community, have proven to be ideal propaganda fodder for despotic leaders abroad and socialist-leaning politicos at home.

It's no wonder that leaders such as Rev. Wright and Louis Farrakhan, or actors like Danny Glover and Harry Belafonte, find so appealing the authoritarian philosophies of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, Cuba's Fidel Castro and Libya's Moammar Gaddafi. Granted, nobody enjoys freedom in those countries. But they do have a kind of universal fairness — everybody gets equally oppressed regardless of color.

It's always poisonous when the politics of race are graphed onto the politics of parties. Invariably folks can smoothly put forward bad-faith arguments about race in order to camouflage other agendas not necessarily palatable for wider public consumption.

The Democrats' tactics have always been the same: We'll fight to keep you eligible for welfare; we'll fight to lower test score standards to ease your college enrollment; and, we'll fight to ensure that the hiring practices of companies are predicated not on who you are, but what you are — provided your votes give us the power to keep you reliant upon us.

The Republican formula has changed, but its evolution was too long in the making. Now, it's about color-blind opportunity for all based on merit. But in the 1970's, Republicans launched a "Southern Strategy" in order to win long-denied southern states by frightening whites into believing that blacks would usurp their jobs through affirmative action.

As a centrist, I believe as I have argued before: You're only free of bigotry if you can embrace the fiancé of every single family member regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or sexual persuasion. But in order to secure those options, you'll need to belong to a society-owned state, versus a state-owned society — regardless of what the latter promises.

Alan Nathan, combative centrist, columnist, speaker and the nationally syndicated host of "Battle Line With Alan Nathan" on the Radio America Network.