Far beyond the "Barack Hussein Obama" business, miles past Glenn Beck's feverish rants and Rush Limbaugh's run-of-the-mill slathering, the Conservative Noize Machine is throwing race cards in every direction like a drunken game of 52-pickup.
Last week it was the New Black Panther affair and the Mark Williams "letter to Lincoln". This week it's the manipulation of videotape by the infamous Andrew Breitbart that implies Shirley Sherrod, formerly of the USDA, made a statement about "white farmers" that was -- using the newest word in the Sarah Palin Dictionary, Constantly Revised -- 'refudiated' by the white farmer family themselves.
Conservatives en masse are taking the white robes and pointy hats out of the closet, twisting up the nooses, and soaking the wooden crosses in kerosene.
Latinos have had to take a back seat to the old-style stoking of racial hatred that still simmers from the '60's. The War on Ill Eagles and the frothing about the Arizona immigration law is still making plenty of headlines, and in the minds of mental midgets like Lamar Smith will keep doing so, but TeaBaggers and Republicans (read: ultra-conservatives and conservatives) lately just feel more comfortable wearing the old bigotry. What's different this time is the subtlety is gone. Gone are the code words, the winks and nods, the dog whistles. Conservative media are openly and aggressively trying to revive old fears and coax them into something menacing. You can chalk it up to bad habit, political desperation, the heat wave or the summer doldrums; the fact is that they're going down a road from which there is no turning back, and it's only going to get worse as summer rolls on.
It's not a presidential election year, but you get the feeling Lee Atwater's Ghost has been reincarnated in CNN's (and RedState.com's) Erick Erickson, who is busy looking for a 2010 version of Willie Horton.
Update: Abby Rapoport at the Texas Observer adds some calmer perspective.