Sunday, November 02, 2008

Four reasons John McCain cannot win the election

Here are four reasons that John McCain cannot win the presidential election this Tuesday. No, I don't have any special insight into the data that has been collected, massaged, analyzed and interpreted (or misinterpreted) to death that show Barack Obama winning by a fairly comfortable margin, both in the Electoral College and in the popular vote. My point here is why a McCain victory at this point, just 48 hours before the polls close on the East Coast, would be disastrous for the nation. Not simply disastrous because his election would mean that, after eight years of absolute horror from the most unpopular president in modern American history, the nation has chosen to extend the Bush reign of error for four more years. Right now, the race isn't really close. The polls show Obama ahead in every state John Kerry and Al Gore won plus: New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Colorado, Iowa and Virginia. Plus, Obama is knocking on the door in North Carolina, Indiana, Florida and Missouri. He is ahead by anywhere from 3.5-7% in national polls. This is not a nailbiter from the perspective of the professionals who design and administer polls and analyze the data. In layman's terms, the outcome of this election is about as mysterious as one of those winter storms that will hit town and dump enough snow to make life for everyone fun, then miserable for a couple of days. The only question is whether the storm will leave 6" or two feet by the time it's done.

And so what happens if, by some miracle, John McCain wins on Tuesday?

1. Racism will explain the difference between a predicted Obama win and an actual McCain victory.  Sorry, but there is no other explanation.  I doubt very seriously that the very same people who have told pollsters and reporters that they plan to vote for Obama are going over their respective health care or economic plans this weekend that will lead to a "A-ha!" moment.  I doubt very seriously that Bill Ayers or Jeremiah Wright or some other McCain boogey-man will move decided voters from Obama to McCain.  No, at this point the only factor that can possibly explain a serious shift to McCain is racism.  Let's be real clear here.  Racism is not just dressing up in sheets and burning crosses or throwing around racial epithets without a trace of social consciousness.  Racism, among other things, is when you assign a superior value to one person and an inferior value to another because of their ancestry or ethnic origin.  For a voter to conclude that he just can't vote for a black man after telling someone he could is a racist. Sorry.  For the life of me, I don't understand why conventional journalists and commentators have bent so far over backward to dismiss the covert racial appeals of, first, the Clinton campaign in the Democratic primary and, now, the McCain campaign in the general primary.  Continuing the beat the Jeremiah Wright drum, outcries of "socialism" by a candidate who has just voted to authorize close to $1 trillion in government funds to save Wall Street, A.I.G. and, coming up, the Detroit auto companies, the emphasis on giving "our" money to "those" who don't deserve it, the not-so-subtle effort to link Obama to his Islamic superiors in al-Qaeda . . . the whole she-bang is just one big racial dog whistle. So far it hasn't worked.  If anything, the clear emphasis by the Clinton and McCain campaigns to make Obama a "black candidate" who will put black America first and everyone else second, like "hard-working white Americans," has backfired.

Hundreds of thousands of voters will have to retreat into their protective racial shells come Tuesday.  And while the McCain campaign has not been above appealing to voters vacillating on whether this accomplished, Harvard-educated lawyer, community organizer, professor, state legislator and U.S. senator is "ready" to serve as president -- witness Arlen Specter's pathetic comments in Pennsylvania this weekend on the secret lives of Pennsylvania voters -- the real question for McCain to consider as he prepares for the last election of his life is this: Does he really, really want to become president by appealing to the sickness that is American racism?  Does he really, really want to take the presidential oath knowing that African-Americans will no longer have any reason to trust white America again?  What will his friends in the Establishment media have to say about that? Will they continue to look for alternative explanations that don't exist?  

This is put up or shut up time for Americans who claim they are "beyond" the stains of our racist past and who claim race is just "one of those things they just don't notice" when sizing up the attributes of a black candidate. Forget, for a moment, what a stupid statement that is. I notice that someone is black every time I talk to someone who is black, just like I notice that a woman is a woman every time I talk to a woman. Failing to support a candidate who is so far and away superior to his opponent because that person just "isn't ready" for a black president has no positive outcome for anyone, least of all John McCain, who will become the Dorian Gray of American politics.

2. The political polling industry will have a hard time recovering from such a colossal miscalculation of the American public. Seriously, what legitimacy will the political polling industry have if their respondents prove them wrong?  Or perhaps the caveat in their marketing materials will be:  "Predicting political outcomes with confidence as long as a black man doesn't run against a white candidate since 1996." Honestly, I think the only people rooting harder for Obama to win than his most fervent supporters are the pollsters who make their livelihood convincing political candidates that they know what they're doing.

3. The international community will give the United States the finger. Point of clarification: the United States didn't squander its reputation as an international force of liberty, democracy and free markets after it rejected the consensus of the international community and invaded Iraq in March 2003.  Rather, the United States managed to lose the sympathy of nations who were repulsed by the attacks on New York and Washington that killed over 3,000 innocent men, women and children who had done nothing more than get up and go to work on the morning of September 11th, 2001. America's imagined post-Iraq decline in the eyes of the world actually began in the 1960s, when Lyndon Johnson refused to leave Vietnam because he didn't want to be remembered as the "only" American president who lost a war and continued through Richard Nixon's decision to extend illegally the war into Laos and Cambodia.  Our allies have never embraced our foreign policies on the Middle East, Latin America, Cuba, South Africa (remember the apartheid years?), Africa and many more places around the globe.  U.S. support for the Nicaraguan contras during the 1980s wasn't a terribly popular or wise decision.  Yes, the United States did the right thing in the 1990s by bringing, along with other NATO nations, an end to the carnage directed by former Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic (an effort, for you historians out there, opposed by very same people who couldn't wait to topple Saddam's statute just a few years later).  But America's perception of itself as the nation that all other aspire to be is perhaps the best example of "American exceptionalism," or the belief that America was somehow chosen by God to be different and better than every other nation. For American voters to turn on Barack Obama two days before the election will reinforce the perception that many of our nominal allies have of our country as one that is intractably racist and thus in no position to lecture the rest of the world, much less invade other countries, that refuse to follow our model.

4. Wave good-bye to grass-roots activism.  After hearing the old folks lament the laziness and self-absorption of Generation X, Y, maybe Z (doesn't this sound a bit like the Cat in the Hat, with Thing 1, Thing 2 and all the other little Things you couldn't see?), young people decided to put down their remotes and their wireless mice and hit the streets.  Families and individuals of modest means began putting aside a few dollars a week to send to Barack Obama as if they were tithing on behalf of some new religion. And what happens? Their candidate loses because the McCain campaign reaches deep into the post-1964 Republican campaign manual and sells the country on the evils of electing a black, er, I mean an "untested, socialist and Muslim" president.  A disengaged citizenry isn't good for democracy, assuming that the Republican party thinks that actual democratic engagement by the average people is a good thing, or only a good thing if it is an unlicensed, semi-employed plumber who's pissed off, or the secessionist-minded husband of Alaska's governor.  

"My feets is tired but my soul is rested," is a comment that Martin Luther King attributed to one of the quiet but courageous women of the Montgomery Bus Boycott who walked miles and miles everyday to and from work rather than continue to sit in the back of that city's segregated buses.  Forty-eight hours from now, we'll have the chance to see just how rested the soul of America, fifty years later, really is.

2 comments:

Scott said...

Very odd that this is the first time I'm reading this blog. After many years the truly obvious that I remember from the 80's at Mizzou has come true. One of the truly great political minds I have ever known is making a big impact in the lives of future Americans. Thanks

Scott Gilmore
NY,NY

Gregg Ivers said...

That's a wonderful compliment, coming as it does from someone who is without a doubt among the smartest, most original and wittiest people I have ever known.

So glad to hear from you! You made my day.