By all accounts, Barack Obama should be trouncing John McCain's ass something fierce. Historically low approval ratings for the current Prez, general dislike of anything incumbent or Republican, weariness of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the economy spiraling towards a Not-So-Great Depression... anybody running as a Democrat ought to be up by 15 or 20 points by now. Yes, Obama is starting to approach a double-digit lead, but that's recent and still not as big as you might imagine. The fact that McCain is still in the running, to me, speaks to a single issue.
Yes, there are some people who prefer McCain to Obama on policy issues, and some on "leadership." There are also the die-hard Republicans who would never switch sides, those closet cases with Daddy issues who always gravitate towards the older guy, and some older voters who identify more with a pre-Baby Boomer than a post one. But there is also a disturbingly large segment of the population, both young and old, who would never vote for a black man. They may couch their opposition in terms of "character," rail about Obama's past associates, or ask vague questions about "do we know who is is?," but at the core they're voting against Obama because they're racist. There is no other explanation.
Even in our supposedly enlightened society, racism still exists, and I see evidence of it daily. Relatives who shall remain nameless persist in spreading scurrilous emails that call Obama a terrorist, a Muslim, the anti-Christ, you name it. A surprising number of people consent to be interviewed on camera to say they'd never vote for a black man (although they often use a more insulting phrase). "He's not like us" is just a euphemism for saying he's back and you're white and you hate those blacks something fierce. Far too many ignorant people in America today still feel that way, some quite strongly and perhaps violently so. I worry for Obama's safety should he actually get elected.
Ignorance breeds prejudice and racism, and there are a lot of ignorant voters out there. Witness the near-rabid crowds at Republican rallies of late, crying out "terrorist" and "kill him" and likely worse epithets that the news media is self-censoring. You don't see any dark faces at these rallies; Sarah Palin's crowds, especially, give off the aura of a lynch mob or Nazi rally. It's frightening.
Palin may be over her head in lots of ways, but in this instance she's the perfect Nazi cheerleader, inciting the crowds with whatever propaganda she's been fed; I expect no less from someone who can deliver no more. I do expect more, however, from McCain. He's always seemed an honorable if somewhat curmudgeonly sort, and he should be better than all this. Or at least the old McCain was; the new 2008-edition John McCain appears to be the lowest form of pandering politician, doing anything his advisors suggest will help him win.
Granted, McCain has belatedly started tamping down some of the worst rhetoric. At a rally this week in Lakeville, MN (just a few miles from where I now live), an old woman in the town hall crowd said she wasn't voting for Obama because he was an "Arab." (It's sad when they can't even get their racism straight...) McCain stepped in to correct her and call Obama an honorable family man, but the crowd was already heavy in its blood lust and booed him. That tells you something.
I'd have a lot more respect for McCain if, at the upcoming final debate, he looked directly into the camera and said, "My friends, Senator Obama and I have some legitimate disagreements, and I think I'd be a better President than him. But if you're voting for me only because my opponent is a black man, I don't want your vote. Feel free stay home on election day, but don't vote for me because I'm white and Senator Obama is black. I don't want your racist votes."
That would turn a few heads, help to quiet the racist uprising (a little), and bring a much welcome note of civility to this increasingly uncivil election. I don't think it'll happen, but wouldn't it be pretty to think so?
But that's just my opinion; reasonable minds may disagree.