It’s been a great year for white guys playing the race card.

Earlier this year, Mayor Daley played the race card on behalf of the Children’s Museum. He also played it in 2006 on behalf of Wal-Mart, so you can say the mayor’s been on something of a roll.

And now, of course, we have Governor Blagojevich jumping into the act. By nominating Roland Burris — who apparently is ready to run for anything under any circumstances — he’s hoping to push house speaker Michael Madigan, state rep Barbara Flynn Currie, and his other impeachment-pushing foes in the General Assembly back on their heels.

For those unfamiliar with this game, the race card is when a politician shrewdly attempts to exploit legitimate racial grievances that go back to the days of slavery — and lord knows there are many — for the narrowest of selfish political gains. Traditionally it’s played by black politicians to bedevil and embarrass their white colleagues into grudgingly cutting a few blacks a slice or two from the pie.

Don’t get me wrong — I’ve long admired the true master of this game, an illustrious crew that includes Jesse Jackson, the Shaw brothers, and even John and Todd Stroger. But it’s a little disconcerting to see white guys playing the card. I always thought that you actually had to have paid some sort of price, like actually having done something of significance in the fight for civil rights. But, alas, like everything else, old standards are eroding.

Ironically, our main hope to offset Blago’s power play are two black politicians: secretary of state Jesse White and president-elect Barack Obama. Both have opposed Burris’s appointment and they might give the U.S. Senate the cover to block Burris from taking a seat. In fact, Obama could help to end this fiasco once and for all by forcefully — and I mean very forcefully — speaking out. But I guess we’ll have to wait just a little longer before he takes on the big boys in his hometown.

I suppose there’s something positive to make out of all this. In a weird, twisted way, it means we have transcended race — or at least turned it upside down. It’s sort of like the time not long ago when Eminem ruled the world of rap and Tiger Woods was the world’s best golfer.

Anyway, time will tell if this does any good for Blagojevich. For what it’s worth, Mick says yes and I say no. We shall see.