Racial politics is all about politics, and nothing about race. It is the politics of fear.

On March 19, 2007, the Los Angeles Times published a column titled "Obama the 'Magic Negro'" by David Ehrenstein, a writer on Hollywood and politics, who is black. Ehrenstein wrote, "The Magic Negro is a figure of postmodern folk culture...there to assuage white 'guilt' (i.e., the minimal discomfort they feel) over the role of slavery and racial segregation in American history...Like a comic-book superhero, Obama is there to help.... For as with all Magic Negroes, the less real he seems, the more desirable he becomes. If he were real, white America couldn't project all its fantasies of curative black benevolence on him."

The column wound up in Rush Limbaugh's "stack of stuff" and conservative satirist Paul Shanklin composed a parody to the tune of "Puff the Magic Dragon." Shanklin performed it in the style of Al Sharpton equipped with a bullhorn: "Barack the Magic Negro lives in D.C.; The L.A. Times, they called him that; 'Cause he's not authentic like me. Yeah, the guy from the L.A. paper; Said he makes guilty whites feel good; They'll vote for him, and not for me; 'Cause he's not from the hood. See, real black men, like Snoop Dog,; Or me, or Farrakhan; Have talked the talk, and walked the walk.; Not come in late and won! Oh, Barack the Magic Negro, lives in D.C.; The L.A. Times, they called him that; 'Cause he's black, but not authentically. Some say Barack's 'articulate'; And bright and new and 'clean'; The media sure loves this guy; A white interloper's dream!"

The song ridiculed blacks who questioned Obama's "authenticity" and whites who need a black trophy friend to prove their non-racism. He quoted now Vice President Elect Joe Biden for the "articulate" and "clean" remarks, but the rest simply paraphrased Ehrenstein's column.

Limbaugh frequently broadcasts the song along with Shanklin's other parodies to his millions of radio listeners. In response to the liberals who failed to appreciate satire directed at them, Limbaugh discussed the spoof on his show about a month after the column first appeared, "The guy that wrote this is a black man...and the whole point of his piece here is: Who is this Obama guy? He's been around for two years in the Senate. Nobody can possibly know him well enough to be giving him all this idolatry. So he's the 'magic negro.' He fits white racists' need to assuage their guilt."

Shanklin's satire appears on his most recent album titled "We Hate the USA" along with songs and skits that lampoon Al Gore, John Edwards, Trent Lott, John McCain, Hillary Clinton, Dr. Phil, Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Osama Bin Laden. Some may find this difficult to understand, but Shanklin doesn't actually hate America. Saying outrageous things to illustrate the opposite of what you believe is apparently a complicated device in comedy, made more difficult for those who lack a sense of humor.

Former Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chip Saltsman gets the joke. As part of his campaign for Republican National Chairman, he bought a copy of the CD for every member of the Republican National Committee. Saltsman is a grassroots guy. A Rush Limbaugh Republican. A non-establishment type, he ran Mike Huckabee's campaign for president and publically opposed his own Republican governor's tax hikes in Tennessee.

Washington Republicans know how to play the race card against other Republicans. Mike Duncan, a banker from Kentucky who was George W. Bush's pick to run the Republican National Committee in 2007 is seeking reelection. Under his leadership, Republicans lost the White House, Senate seats, House seats, and gubernatorial seats. Now this CD (and possibly Saltsman's momentum) has Duncan "shocked and appalled." He condemned Saltsman and created a national story on Republican racial insensitivity.

Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis, another candidate in the chairman's race, said Saltsman's action "paints the GOP as being motivated" by something "other than a difference in philosophy." There is no soft way to accuse someone of racism.

Former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, one of two candidates for chairman in the race who are black, said his "concerns are minimal" and blamed "hypersensitivity in the press." He disagreed with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich who said this should disqualify Saltsman from contention.

Unfortunately for Saltsman, Blackwell's defense may not help. As a conservative branded with racial insensitivity, he will struggle to get his reputation back. Unfortunately for racial reconciliation, productive dialogue is stymied by race-fear politics.

Saltsman buys a CD of political satire promoted on the Rush Limbaugh Show. One track on the CD satirizes a column written by a black man that criticizes whites who demean Barack Obama. For this, RNC Chairman Duncan attacks him, and the press is happy to spread the news.

The RNC conducts the chairman's vote at the end of January. Saltsman is likely thinking, with Republicans like this, who needs Democrats?

Brian Perry of Jackson, a former congressional aide, is a partner in a public affairs firm. Reach him at reasonablyright@brianperry.ms.