Sunday, November 02, 2008

It looks like President Obama

Unless there is a turn-about it looks as if Barack Obama is heading towards victory in next Tuesday's election, and Politaholic - considering the alternative - very much hopes so. (Although I never expected it; I thought Obama could not win, that the Republicans would play the "race card" against him: but these expectations have been confounded). Here is what might go wrong:

(1) "Nobody says it out loud but nobody needs to", says Gary Younge in the Guardian: he might be assassinated (with someone shouting "Kill Him" at a Sarah Palin rally this is a real fear).

(2) The "Bradley effect": as I understand it there is some doubt about whether there is such an effect, and even in the case of Bradley there are other explanations. And yet...

(3) Massive electoral fraud by the Republicans, especially in Florida and Ohio, where they have a track record in these things (apparently the Democrats will have thousands of lawyers at polling stations to try to prevent this).
(4) A "late swing" to McCain - which seems unlikely.

I think Obama will win. But I also think that those who expect big "change" are in for a disappointment. Obama is essentially a pragmatic conservative politician. Under an Obama Presidency the US empire will not be dismantled. The US may be a bit more collegiate vis-a-vis Europe, and the US may begin to disengage from Iraq (I do not expect speedy withdrawal). For the most part it will be "business as usual". Obama endlessly talks of "change", but is less specific about the change he seeks; indeed, it seems to be widely believed that "he is the change". Mmm.

If Obama does win one reason will be that he broke his word and declined public funding; allowing him to outspend McCain. For this he was universally praised: it showed he was "determined to win", that he was "tough" and "pragmatic" etc. Had it been the other way round - had McCain declined public funds and Obama accepted them - I doubt if it would have been reported in this way.

Harold Evans in the Guardian has one of the precious few articles I have seen voicing any kind of critisism of Obama. He comments on the extraordinary easy ride Obama has had in the press, which began in the primaries:

  • "...the press let the Obama campaign get away with continuous insinuations below the radar that the Clintons were race-baiters. Instead of exposing that absurd defamation for what it was - a nasty smear - the media sedulously propagated it.
    Clinton made the historically correct and uncontroversial remark that civil rights legislation came about from a fusion of the dreams of Dr Martin Luther King and the legislative follow-through by President Lyndon Johnson. The New York Times misrepresented that as a disparagement of King, twisting her remarks to imply that "a black man needed the help of a white man to effect change". This was one of a number of manipulations on race by the Obama campaign, amply documented by the leading Democratic historian, Princeton's Sean Wilentz..."

  • "Chelsea Clinton joining Clinton's campaign prompted Shuster to report she was "pimping" for her mother".

  • "...until it became inescapable because of a video rant, they wouldn't investigate the Reverend Jeremiah Wright connection for fear of being accused of racism. They wouldn't explore Obama's dealing with the corrupt, now convicted, Chicago businessman Tony Rezko. They haven't investigated Obama's pledge to get rid of the secret ballot in trade union affairs. After years of inveighing against "money in politics", they've tolerated his breach of the pledge to restrict himself to public financing as McCain has done (to his cost)".

When - as I think he - wins, there will be a giddy celebration of an historical barrier broken: the first black President. But I suspect that, as after many a celebration, there will a hang-over...


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