Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Obama Effect

As seen at Newsweek's website, an Associated Press reporter asks the best question in the simplest way:

If Barack Obama's got so many issues going for him in the presidential election, from the economy to war fatigue to a national hunger for change, how come John McCain is so close to him as their race begins in earnest?
The AP's Alan Fram is not the only person to observe that Obama has been fought to a virtual draw in a race that Democrats should be winning in a walk. Gallup Poll data (see graph) also show Obama and McCain locked in a dead heat. And in the bellwether states of Nevada and Texas, McCain holds either a slight lead or, as in Lone Star country, "dominates Barack Obama." Moreover, a Washington Post-ABC News poll shows both candidates are "even among political independents."

While RealClearPolitics shows Obama holding a four point lead in its poll aggregations, Fram's question resonates with Obamicans who note along with the Post that,
"at this point four years ago, Democratic Sen. John F. Kerry held [similar] leads over President Bush among all adults and among registered voters."
With five months to go until chads are left hanging in Florida and elsewhere, progressives are doubtless concerned that Obama's tenuous lead could evaporate as quickly as did Kerry's.

They may well be acknowledging the damage done by the protracted Democratic primary; the irony is that rules designed to provide for "proportionate representation" created a situation not unlike that seen in the 2000 presidential election, where the candidate who won the popular vote did not win the contest. The internecine conflict did much to further fray relations between races, genders and classes within the party.

With due cause, Democrats may also be concerned about the "Bradley effect" (as discussed elsewhere.) As they view politics through a prism of race, liberals are understandably concerned that white poll respondents may refuse to admit their covert biases. My own sense is that there is indeed some manner of self-deception that contributes to poll results tilted in favor of Obama. For simplicity's sake, we will refer to this presently observable phenomenon as the "Obama effect"

In as much as the former is to be differentiated from the latter, is is a measure of both how far America has come - and how far we must go - vis-a-vis race. Rather than denying latent racism, voters possessed of the Obama effect fail to acknowledge their own colorblindness enough to recognize that they are not racists if they do not vote for the first presidential candidate in modern times with so thin a resume of experience. (As much complicates his choice for VP, in that whomever Obama selects must shore him up in everything from foreign affairs to fiscal policy to finding the bathrooms on Air Force One.)

The verifiability of the Obama effect is manifested in its reproducibility. Whatever the merits of Geraldine Ferraro's comments on Obama's candidacy, to assert that a white candidate would never have survived "Bittergate," "Wrightgate," "Ayersgate" and the unfolding scandal involving real estate developer Antonin "Tony" Rezko is unarguable. To be sure, Barack Obama is yet in the running to be president entirely because of a preternatural forbearance on the part of the American people. For their part, Democrats must sense that such forbearance seems more akin to enabling.

In all of his set piece speechifying, Obama has held himself up as someone who has transcended race.
I can only suggest that Americans take Barack Obama at his word and embrace their own indifference to race, considering only his character and body of experience contrasted with that of John McCain. If the aforementioned polls are any indication, Americans are beginning to do exactly that.

Four More Years!

Addendum: Although I was unaware at the time, after publishing this post, I discovered a similarly titled post on Andrew Sullivan's blog. Rest assured that, other than the titles, the content is entirely dissimilar and no effort to poach from Mr. Sullivan's material was intended.

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