8.10.08

Cornering A Wild Animal

Things are going well for the Obama campaign; John McCain revealed his true ornery and reckless self, Sarah Palin serves only to inject vitriol into a base that was never going to vote for a black man anyway, and much of the conservative media is moving on to 2012 and a serious period of introspection to redefine American conservatism. Obama leads in the polls in Ohio, Colorado, and Virginia, and McCain has given up on Michigan. The global economy smells worse than my gym shoes and we're losing a war in Afghanistan to what conservatives once considered primarily a pile of dirt. So fine, all signs reasonably point to a democratic victory across the boards and a landslide doesn't seem to be out of the question.

The problem is, I just don't believe the GOP is just going to roll over on this election. I used to joke, when asked what life would be like after Bush was out of office, that I didn't understand what made anyone think he'd leave willingly. He, Cheney, Addington, Yoo, etc. have obliterated most aspects of a constitutional democracy, why stop because of "term limits"? I don't really think that idea is so funny anymore. Here are the two things that worry me:

1.) The Polls - Notoriously bullshit. Especially bullshit this time around because Obama is black. Back in the primaries, each time Obama seemed about to close out Hillary, some working class white state (like NH and OH) stood up and shouted Obama to the back of the line. The New Yorker had a good piece on that dynamic this week called "The Hardest Vote". An excerpt:


"...during the long Democratic primary fight it was precisely the white working class that kept denying Obama a lock on the nomination. The problem first became manifest in New Hampshire, a state that much of the media declared in advance to be the end of the road for Clinton. Two days after her victory, Andrew Kohut, of the Pew Research Center, published an Op-Ed in the Times about the failure of polls to predict the outcome. He had a theory: undetected racism among working-class whites. Clinton, he noted, beat Obama among whites with family incomes under fifty thousand dollars and also among those who hadn’t attended college. “Poorer, less well-educated white people refuse surveys more often than affluent, better-educated whites,” Kohut wrote. 'Polls generally adjust their samples for this tendency. But here’s the problem: these whites who do not respond to surveys tend to have more unfavorable views of blacks than respondents who do the interviews.'.... a black candidate is likely to fare worse than preĆ«lection polls would suggest."

The context was vastly different during the primaries, to be sure. But I wouldn't put it past Americans to vote McCain into office just to satisfy an old racist ache.

2.) The Wild Card - This has to do with what I mentioned earlier about Bush-Cheney et al. blowing up the constitution. It's fairytale-ish, but, who knows. I don't think she's smart enough to realize it - I think she's just doing it because it's comfortable and gets a good reaction - but Sarah Palin's fascistic addresses to McCain supporters appeal to the dark sides of American voters. Familiar strains; xenophobia, racism, terrorism... She whips up the crowd like an oratorical incarnation of Leni Riefenstahl and incites her supporters to yell, "Kill him" and "terrorist" in reference to Obama.

McCain, on the other hand, condescends when he addresses the American people. He did so last night in the town-hall style debate all night, treating the audience to meaningless stock phrases like he was a grandfather talking to a five year old grandchild about the evils of Communism in Detroit in 1950. McCain walks the walk, Palin talks the talk - as our precious simpleton from Alaska is fond of saying.

What could they do? Who knows. Palin has secessionist tendencies. There's got to be a page on in-house hostile takeovers in the GOP handbook. Hell, they've already pulled off two in the past two elections, but those were easy because they were close. What will they pull in a potential landslide? These people are dangerous. They know better than you, and they don't even have to convince Americans of that, they just have to keep their base of racist trash whipped up into enough of a furor that there are ten or twenty million voting Americans who refuse to put a black man in the White House and will go to the mattresses behind McCain-Palin-Bush-Cheney to keep it from happening. Is that absurd and out of the question? I'd like to think so, but really most of what happened in the past eight years seemed absurd and out of the question to consider eight years ago.

I would guess that our one saving grace in all of this is that any sort of power coup would require consent of the armed forces. But they've been so mistreated and poorly cared for over the past seven years by the Bush administration that I can't imagine them signing on for more. Plus, David Petraeus has his eyes set on the White House in 2012 or 2016 and that's really where the buck stops these days.

I've mentioned this before, but I know a kid who was a big Hillary Clinton supporter and said a couple times that if Obama won the primary he'd, "never vote for that terrorist." There are clearly a lot of people with that sentiment out there. If it comes to blows, I'm fine with leaving the red states to rename themselves Palinville and we'll take the blue. It'll be fun. Care to guess which one will end up looking like Somalia first?

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