In nearly every poll, Obama is leading by several points. From the economic crisis to the Bush administration, to McCain’s voting record, to Sarah Palin as the heartbeat-away President, it seems like everyday something new emerges from the US presidential campaign that points to a universe where all the stars are aligning for Obama. And the reality of it is, if you are an African-American running for President, you better have the universe backing you up (as well as karma, the cosmos, and the gods of politics). When it comes to the undecideds, where all the votes up for grab are, the economy is what matters, and even there, Obama is generally seen as doing better perception-wise. Obama even seems to be worshiped by mainstream American media, as far as worshiping allows, and that’s not an easy get.
With so much going in his favor, this has become a really unique election that has me wondering what could possibly go wrong for Obama.
My reluctance to get on the Obama bandwagon has mostly been due to the fact that he has this seemingly cult-like following. He is seen as this messiah of change, and is described and depicted as almost prophet-like. I have a problem with anyone who puts that much faith in a single politician, especially an American president. If the on-going history of America has shown the world anything, it’s that change (in the positive sense of the word) is not a big factor in a US presidency. So I am constantly astonished by any Arab who is entranced by Obama and have to constantly remind myself that most of the fan base in this part of the world comes from a particular more-westernized demographic and have been swallowed up by the wave of US election culture that is dominated by Obama. Everyone is entitled to their own perceptions but I remain realistic to the degree of change that is expected with either candidate in the Oval Office.
But back to the winning/losing theme of this post.
By now, I think everyone has heard of the so-called Bradley-effect given the fact that it’s been talked about to death throughout this election. The African-American who ran for governor in California in the early 80’s and showed a strong lead over his opponent before losing on election day. The effect essentially refers to the margin of voters who tell pollsters they’ll vote for a black candidate, only to end up voting for a white candidate once safely inside the poll booth. White voters wanting to appear politically correct were the endgame.
The Bradley effect has been talked about to death during this election and the fact that it has generated that much discussion in the media is indicative enough of just how much race plays a factor in this election. The effect has been grappled with and debated endlessly, with many debunking it and pointing out that times have changed since the 80’s, that this election is different, that inaccuracy in polls exist, that racist tendencies are not what caused Bradley’s initial run.
But putting the pseudo-scientific debate of the Bradley effect aside, it is safe to say that race has never played this big a factor in a US election. From subtle statements to outright racist ones, Obama’s skin color is most definitely an active card in this deck.
Looking at the electoral college, we see a system where the more rural states with mostly white conservative, Republicans are given around three times the weight of the more (arguably) diverse and Democrat states. Moreover, most potential black voters live in the south where the electoral college advantage comes in to play for the Republicans, and debates as to the likelihood of black voter turnout has also been a centerpiece of the election recently.
There is also the argument that many of Obama’s white supporters (wherever they may be), will change their minds once inside the booth.
Suffice to say, in this race of all races, polls are not to be trusted.
Skin color probably wont be the determining factor (voters are probably more concerned with their money right now), but it has potential to play a big enough factor that lowers the margins enough for a McCain win. And I’m interested to see how this will play out in the swing states.
Either way, I suppose we’ll all find out in a few days from now.