On Election Day, 2004, 'Pockets, some random tween-age boy, and I personed the Kerry table outside an Ann Arbor voting precinct. The air was cold and rife with hope. The exit polling leaked onto blogs early in the day and suggested wild possibilities -- notably, Virginia was tilting to Kerry. It is true -- as the aforementioned 'Pockets, blogger E, reader Owen and others will tell you-- that I had succumbed to the notion that Senator Kerry would dethrone the President that day. In fact I visited my feelings of hope on any and all and infected them duly. Of course, as we know, Virginia fell to the rogues that night --a full 8% margin eventually separated right from wrong -- and with it Ohio and anything that mattered. The taste of defeat, I have been told, was all the more bitter because of my evangelism. Kerry was a false prophet, and I spoke his gospel a bit too well. I had convinced even myself.
We now sally forth to a new election day, to a new dawn backlit by a supernova. The President is as marginal a lame duck as there has ever been. Prognosticators seem only interested in predicting how wide Senator Obama's margin of victory will be. I know I have been hesitant in these e-pages to embrace the New Testament that David Axelrod and the Obama Campaign have written in Obama's honor. I have resisted the notion that the obvious and remarkable symbolism of his potential victory is tantamount to substantive change. But I now publicly retreat from this position; While I believe Obama faces immense challenges in his first term and will have to make difficult choices that, at best, will serve to mitigate our national losses, not extend our gains, I can no longer deny the import of what he symbolizes. My former students, elementary school children in the Bush years, may just approach adulthood under the aegis of a man whose story and whose complexion are the same as theirs. This alone will not realign the systematic racism that impedes their progress, but it is a beginning.
I marvel at how this beginning came to be. When Senator Obama, and -- credit where credit is due -- Howard Dean spoke of a 50-state strategy, of abandoning the paradigm of post-Civil-Rights-era politics, I thought them neophytes in the tradition of the Democratic Party. But now, it would appear that New Mexico, Iowa, Nevada, Colorado, Florida, Ohio, Indiana, North Carolina, Montana, one of the Dakotas, and, undeniably, Virginia are ripe for the picking. Bravo to them.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. There is time still for defeat to be snatched from the jaws, nay, the esophagus of victory. But whether or not the final results speak it, the electorate has changed already in myriad ways. We have rejected the glib and pointless Governor of Alaska; we have rejected the demented and desperate schizophrenic Senator from Arizona. They are the Rosencranz and Guildenstern of our unfolding Hamlet. They are bit players, but this is not to say they are necessarily losers.
You see, this election is not about them, or the Economy or Iraq. On November 4th we will take stock of only one thing: exactly how bigoted our country really is. This election will measure that and that alone. Should the polls reflect reality, we will have something to celebrate. However, should our fear of black male power, should our collective anti-Muslim hysteria, guide our choice, we will not. If Obama loses, none of what I have said above is undermined, but hope will be a hard sell down the road, and bigotry will rule the day and days to come.
So on Election Day, once again, I will turn to my home state, my beloved Old Dominion, and watch with bated breath. Virginia brought indentured servitude to colonial America, laying the foundation for the slave trade. Now it has an opportunity to atone for its sins -- and it will. I resist predicting an outright Obama win, but that much I am willing to say.
ps -- The fish pictured is a wahoo.