Thursday, September 04, 2008Moving On
My mother suggested I do a political post, which isn't a bad idea -- certainly there's plenty to talk about. And yet I find myself stymied. What is there to say that isn't blatantly obvious at this point?
But there is one thing I come back to whenever the subject comes up: we are, almost certainly, about to elect the first black president. Not to count unhatched eggs -- we've got two months to go, and things can always go haywire -- but it's looking like the most likely outcome. And I personally think that Barack Obama is in his own right one of the strongest candidates that I've encountered, so in that regard there's nothing surprising about it. But it's easy, maybe, to overlook how everything had to come together to make it not merely possible, but likely.
The first black president was going to be an exceptional person before all else. You can elect mediocre white dudes for decades on end, but the first black president was going to have to be a phenomenon. That much I think we can assume. The same, of course, will be true for the first woman president -- Hillary is fine and all, I suppose, not great, but not horrible. But she wasn't amazing. And she would've had to have been to win the presidency.
But a phenomenal black politician still would've only been making up for the major issue of his race -- not the fact of his race itself, but the reaction of the electorate to his race. The simple truth: there are way too many ignorant assholes who won't vote for a black guy no matter how exceptional he might be. There's still a lot to be overcome, and an amazing black candidate can still lose to a mediocre white one. It helps, of course, if the mediocre white candidate has been put forward by a party that has been in power for much of one of the most difficult decades in recent history. If there's an unpopular war, the baggage of accumulated ethical scandals, and the demoralization of a general population crushed by a failing economy, that's a big help.
But it would be even better if the mediocre white candidate also screws up a lot. Over the last few weeks I've been watching McCain finally start to join the election in earnest, and in the process doing everything in his power to make himself one of the most ridiculous presidential candidates ever. I've been hoping for something to finally blow in the McCain campaign -- maybe a nice little "Macaca" incident, that foul temper flaring up at the wrong time, the wrong word passing his pursed grey lips with a mic in proximity. I definitely wasn't expecting Sarah Palin to turn up instead, but that'll do fine. I don't have anything to say about her that hasn't been said already; I just sit and watch and smile. This is the best election ever.
So maybe that's what it takes to get the first black president elected: a phenomenal black politician running an exemplary campaign, against and addled old fool and a corrupt small-town mayor who together have been chosen to represent eight years of failure and frustration. The whole thing is just embarrassing -- the McCain campaign is the only thing, it turns out, that could make George W. Bush seem serious and intellectually formidable by comparison. It's like McCain's not even fucking trying. And so we're almost certainly about to get a black president with a last name that's mostly vowels -- almost the polar opposite of what we've had for the last eight years. And I don't know what kind of a president Obama will really turn out to be, or what, if anything, it will mean for us in practical terms. But it will definitely mark an end to everything that's come before, and that's really all I'm asking for.
But what I'm really excited about is the aliens. Everyone knows from the movies that black president = alien landing. 2010 is the year we make contact!
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