Thought y’all might be interested in this great article from JJP’s own dnA over at the American Prospect. It first appeared earlier this week. It’s a deep, deep dive into the psychology behind the coverage of Obama in the media and GOP strategy. Here’s a hot slice…mmm:

The rapturous coverage of the Obama campaign during the primary was less about Obama himself than it was America congratulating itself for being willing to consider a black man for president, with the subtext being that the United States had finally liberated itself from its racist past. It established an unspoken contract that Obama’s success was proof that racism is no longer a serious problem, thus preempting any further discussion on the subject. But even as the mainstream media all but trumpeted his nomination as the end of racism in the United States, Obama continues to face a series of arbitrary and shifting public tests merely because he is black. His dilemma remains that the only way to succeed is to pretend that this double standard does not exist. He has to extricate himself from an ongoing racial competition between blacks and whites, where the prosperity of one is seen as detrimental to the other. The paradox is that by succeeding, Obama has raised the white anxiety about his presence to a level at which it can be exploited as resentment.

To put the “Britney” ad in context, and to understand the troubling racial dynamic that is fertile ground for exploitation by the GOP, it’s helpful to consider the concept of “Jockey Syndrome.” In his book 40 Million Dollar Slaves, journalist William C. Rhoden chronicles the history of (mostly male) African Americans in sports. He defines Jockey Syndrome, as what occurs when “the establishment attempts to change the rules when the competition begins to gain ground.” It refers specifically to the phenomenon of changing the rules in certain sports to end black American dominance, which began with the expulsion of black jockeys from equestrian sports at the turn of the century. Once white athletic dominance was re-established through changing the rules of the game, declining black prowess was held up as proof of black inferiority.

Jockey Syndrome is easily applicable to many situations involving race relations in America — look no further than the constantly shifting and often arbitrary expectations for Obama. When it came to coverage of his trip to Europe, the question of whether he could be “presidential” abroad immediately gave way to questions of whether the impression he made was too good. Last week, The Wall Street Journal ran an article on whether the candidate is “too fit” to be president. From flag pins to pledges of allegiance, Obama has been forced through a series of arbitrary public tests because of his race, where even his obvious strengths inspire questions about his leadership. Ironically, his tendency to meet or exceed expectations in many of these instances is precisely what makes the “Britney” ad possible.

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