Considering that the country is at war and the economy is slowing, it's odd that the debate in the Democratic presidential contest between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton has been dominated by race:

Clinton may have found her voice in the New Hampshire primary, but she's still got the clanging surrogates of the establishment old order who are speaking for her in harmful ways. ... Barack Obama's campaign has sought to stoke African-American resentment by circulating among blacks these negative reactions to Clinton's remarks. She might be able to point that out in order to at least bring the fight to a truce, which would allow a more reasonable assessment of her recent remarks about Martin Luther King. That would not only improve her chances in South Carolina but also keep her ultimate potential victory from being tainted by the charge that she won by making Barack Obama's race the central issue of the contest. ...

JOHN DICKERSON,

SLATE, JAN. 15

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With the first viable African American and the first viable female candidates for president, the campaign for the Democratic Party nomination puts the nation on the road to a historic first. But the debate over race that boiled over last weekend and continued yesterday, marked by mischaracterizations and veiled aspersions, threatens to mar this extraordinary moment. ...

A hallmark of Mr. Obama's campaign is its transcendent, universal appeal. He refreshingly portrays himself as a candidate for the presidency who happens to be black, not the black candidate for president. As long as racial divisions remain in America, race is a legitimate, important subject for political debate. But the current finger-pointing is unproductive and even dangerous because it threatens to revive those divisions rather than bridge them.

WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL, JAN 15

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Both Clinton and Obama have eagerly donned the mantle of identity politics. A Clinton victory wouldn't just be a victory for one woman, it would be a victory for little girls everywhere. An Obama victory would be about completing the dream, keeping the dream alive, and so on. Fair enough. The problem is that both the feminist movement Clinton rides and the civil rights rhetoric Obama uses were constructed at a time when the enemy was the reactionary white male establishment. Today, they are not facing the white male establishment. They are facing each other ...

What we have here is worthy of a Tom Wolfe novel: the bonfire of the multicultural vanities. The Clintons are hitting Obama with everything they've got. The Obama subordinates are twisting every critique into a racial outrage in an effort to make all criticism morally off-limits.

This is the logical extreme of the identity politics that as been floating around this country for decades. Every revolution devours its offspring, and it seems the multicultural one does, too.

DAVID BROOKS

NEW YORK TIMES, JAN. 15