Thursday, October 30, 2008

History boy - by Daddy J

So there was me thinking that the so-called "most important election in a generation" was turning out a bit dull. For a couple of weeks now the polls have been suggesting that its all over and Nov 4th looms as a mere formality. It certainly seemed that way yesterday as I stared through the wall of fatigue at CNN and swilled down my umpteenth salt'n'sugar-based meal at the (tiny) airport in Charleston, WV. The only excitement on offer then was the prospect of a brush with a Buddy Holly style death in the twin-prop that was taking us back to Washington on a wintry evening. 

All that changed today with a fascinating interview we did with a black journalist from the Washington Post. After the tape stopped rolling he started talking more frankly as to how he felt about the election as an African American. He pointed out that he fully understood why Obama was working so hard on what seemed to me like campaign overkill - the mega-rallies, yet more fund-raising, the half-hour ads - when he's so clearly got his opponent on the ropes. He said that as a black man negotiating the American Establishment you're never confident you've really arrived, you've always got to try twice as hard as the next (white) guy and you're always watching your back. 

What worried him most he said - and here's the exciting bit - is that the financial crisis, the unpopularity of Bush, the weakness of McCain's campaign have all conspired to create a situation in which the only thing that could possibly prevent Obama from winning is race. And that makes a McCain win - from the point we are now one week out - potentially devastating. A million people are expected to make their way to Grant Park in Chicago to celebrate an Obama victory according to the mayor (an exaggerated figure of course, but it shows the level of anticipation and there are at least half a million journalists going) - imagine what happens if those crowds are let down at the last minute. There are already dark rumours of civil strife

But think of the broader picture too - an Obama win is supposed to send a signal to the world that just a generation on from the civil rights struggle America has finally laid its racial divisions to rest. What does it say if America simply refuses to elect a black man president? And now that McCain has proved to be such a confused and impulsive guy - is he really going to be able to lead a shell-shocked country through the backlash from all that - as well as the two wars and the mother of all recessions? Suddenly its hit me just how historic next Tuesday really is. Maybe Mommy will forgive me just a teensy bit for being in Chicago for her birthday after all.

1 comment:

Meghan said...

I happened to be blog hopping and happened accross you blog. Wow. As a Canadian we have been closely following the happenings of the elections and I truly believe we are standing at the brink of a very monumentous occasion. You have truly written about the election from a viewpoint very few have seen. Very Poignant.