When debates about everything from health care to the economy are short on logic and driven in the main by ideological passion, public opinion is persuaded not just by real concerns but by less admirable, more narrowly conceived agendas.

Conservatives like to say that progressives always cry racism when anyone disagrees with the president, a manufactured talking point that is most certainly not the case. But when conservative mouthpiece Rush Limbaugh says that a white kid getting beaten up by blacks on a school bus is a product of “Obama’s America” and fails to mention that a black student intervened to restrain the attackers, his racist slant derives a kind of legitimacy among his listeners and beyond. Outrage over the incident was immediate as media coverage and You Tube converged with Limbaugh to inflame the passions of people just waiting to vent their latent racial angst over a convenient cause.

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