Monday, October 20, 2008

The Inevitability of Barack Obama

When I began blogging three years ago I envisioned myself giving some sort of ringing endorsement for this year’s Presidential contest. Now that the moment of truth has come I find that any endorsement would be superfluous.

Ever since the lackluster first Presidential debate, G.O.P. candidate John McCain and Sarah Palin have tried to close the gap with Barack Obama caused by the sudden economic downturn—and not really succeeding.

The fact that the McCain-Palin resorted to smear ads at this late stage of the game reflects the desperation of their campaign. (McCain should have started playing the Ayers-Wright-Rezco card in July like Bush did with the Swift Boat Veterans ads against Kerry in 2004. If Jeb Bush had been the G.O.P. nominee, he would have done so—with a lot more worse ads to follow too). The belated negative ads merely represent the last shriek of retreat of the McCain-Palin campaign.

McCain did perform better in the two subsequent debates but the problem is Presidential debates are largely mutual canceling out sessions between the two candidates. Very rarely do the candidates in question make significant errors but when they do we remember them for all time (Richard Nixon’s refusal to wear make-up for his debate with JFK in 1960; Gerald Ford declaring that the Polish people were free when he debated Jimmy Carter in 1976; George Bush looking at his watch while brushing off a female questioner asking him to show compassion to the poor during the 1992 campaign).

There were no blatant debate gaffes. McCain pressed his attacks on Obama—sometimes scoring but Obama never lost his composure or command. He improved on his tepid performance and honed his message. In the second debate he scored heavily with viewers (especially female voters) when he discussed health care, education, and women’s issues. During the last debate he did the same again. This is significant. There was fear in the Obama campaign that his triumph over Hillary Clinton would cause female voters to defect to McCain. Instead by this late date female voters are rallying to his standard despite Sarah Palin’s presence.

It appears evident that Obama (barring the unforeseen disaster) will triumph on Election Day—the only question being what will the margin of victory will be. The signs are there. The fact that McCain is withdrawing resources from certain states; the fact that the pundits of the Fox News Channel are bemoaning the fates and Obama’s successes; the fact that certain U.S. newspapers are endorsing Obama’s candidacy where they had never endorsed a Democrat before. It’s the little signs that indicate that Obama will win.

Still, the other night, I was watching the Larry King Show and there was a panel of political experts including two black pollsters. One of them, a guy named Dyson suggested that if Obama were white his present lead would be even more overwhelming. I disagree vehemently.

If Barack Obama were a white man, he would never have won the Democratic nomination. No way. Despite his superb eloquence and excellent organizational skills, his skin color was the key card in his winning hand. If he were white he would have never have gotten the overwhelming voter turnouts from the African-American population—which before had been in lockstep with Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996. If Obama had been white he would have run a creditable race, won fewer primaries while Hillary would have won heavily in the South—which she didn’t do. Hillary would have won the nomination and quite possibly a white Barack Obama might have been a running mate—maybe.

Now if Hillary Rodham could have beaten John McCain is another question altogether. McCain is a better stump speaker than Hillary. That’s not an aspersion on her but she is not entertaining on the stump like her husband. The race would be much closer now if she had gotten the nomination.

The nation is in bad straits both internally and abroad. The economy is in free fall (in fact it’s been tepid since 2001). Energy prices have aroused considerable consumer anguish (but have stimulated the vital need to seek out and exploit clean alternative fuel sources). Our financial institutions are collapsing and consumer confidence is low. Simply put this country is in a crisis unseen since 1933. Indeed one could say that our present crisis is even worse than 1933 whereas in 1933 America was in dire domestic straits at least we didn’t have the enormous role in world affairs that we have today or the massive military complex that we need today to maintain our influence in world affairs. In 1933 FDR could focus solely in trying to restore the American economy. In 2009 Barack Obama has to fix America’s fiscal house while simultaneously trying to restore American prestige and influence in foreign policy (both of which have declined precipitously under George W. Bush)—not a simple task.

John McCain and Sarah Palin can claim that Obama will raise taxes all they like—and they’re right. He will raise taxes—like Bill Clinton did in 1993 but guess what? If the G.O.P. led by George W. Bush hadn’t passed those massive tax cuts in 2001 and while simultaneously engaging in massive domestic spending at home and the tragically costly war in Iraq then our deficits wouldn’t be so huge so as to necessitate any tax increases to reduce our national debt. John McCain can propose all the tax cuts he wants but you can only cut taxes so much before you start compromising national security and internal domestic order. John McCain wants victory in Iraq but “victory” in Iraq is a very expensive proposition. How do you intend to pay for “victory”?

In a different time and place McCain’s platform would have been compelling but now is not the right time. The American people have been bled white and are tired. Like Bob Dylan says, “it’s time to strike a match girl, start anew.”

That’s why Barack Obama will be the man a majority of Americans will vote for on Election Day 2008.

I know I will.

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