By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
We visit several McCain visibilities nearby, and not one supporter is interested in the issues. They want to talk about “Obama’s shady associations”; how his money was raised by the PLO; and the minorities who took down the economy via Fanny and Freddy. Not a single Florida Republican seems to sense any irony when they complain that Obama, who is seven points ahead nationally, will probably “steal the election.”
Spending time among the rank and file makes you realize that the last two weeks have not been about winning this election but about making the country ungovernable. It was McCain himself who ominously warned that the “fabric of democracy” is threatened. If this true, it’s backward: Democracy has been at least moderately damaged by McCain, one of whose own advisers recently acknowledged, after being unable to point to any actual instances of voter fraud, that the whole charge is a “perception” meant to “plant seeds of doubt.” I guess it’s the lesson McCain learned from Vietnam: If we can’t have the country, no one can. Let’s burn it down — and poison the wells for good measure.
But the scorched earth isn’t working. Obama’s still ahead. It may even backfire: resurrecting the culture war and wrapping it in paranoid delusion have stripped the Republican Party to its radioactive core. Remember Rove’s “permanent Republican majority” of four years ago? That dream is long gone. It is almost tragic to watch the “intellectuals” on The Corner, who contort themselves into a rage in defense of Sarah Palin. If that’s who they choose as the standard-bearer for the cause of Edmund Burke, William F. Buckley and Leo Strauss, fine. The game is over. It’s that brand of politics that caused Colin Powell, the most popular Republican nationwide, to frame his earth-shattering endorsement of Obama inside a detailed un-endorsement of what his own party has become. “I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion,” Powell said, that “[Obama] might be associated with terrorists. This is not the way we should be doing it in America.”
Heart of the Sun
In 2004, Barack Obama made his a pitch for national unity on behalf of John Kerry. “Now, even as we speak,” he worried, “there are those who are preparing to divide us — the spin masters, the negative-ad peddlers who embrace the politics of ‘anything goes.’?” Little did he know just how far “anything” would go. But even then, Obama had an answer. “I say to them tonight, there is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. ... There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq, and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.”
Obama’s rhetoric is well-honed political theater, but it is political theater in the service of a grand idea, one enshrined in our national motto. Not “In God We Trust,” which came along in 1954, but the original: E pluribus unum. To hear these words invoked with real conviction is a new experience for people my age. Cloaked in protective irony, we never talk about “hope” and “service” and “country” and mean it. Believing in things usually makes us uncomfortable. That is not true any more.
By 7 p.m. on Tuesday, it’s becoming clear that Obama might deliver on his 2004 promise. Everyone has been anxious-giddy-excited-nervous-hopeful all day. This morning, Elliott had to tear himself away from the computer.
“I keep looking for the one blog that will tell me the future and calm my nerves,” my friend Starlee says. “But it just doesn’t exist.”
“I know he’s ahead in the polls,” Elliott says as we all gather with Davis and several friends. “But I can’t stop worrying.”
“Don’t worry,” Davis says, “we got ’em.”
“Those are the precise words you used last time,” Elliott says.
We’re in the same place where we watched those returns. Recalling what happened with exit polls in 2004, we mostly ignore them, but sense good vibes. Soon enough, numbers arrive: McCain’s Pickett’s charge into Pennsylvania is a bust. Ohio goes decisively blue. Florida’s looking good. Then: Iowa, New Mexico, Colorado. The electoral math is a fait accompli, but we don’t expect the announcement to come so sharply at 11 p.m., EST., when the last continental polls close, the networks return from break, and the entire West Coast lights up blue. Obama is now the “American president Americans have been waiting for.” Our scene, I’m sure, is just like millions across the country. Cheers, tears and clinking of beers.