Well, who would have thunk it a year and a half ago when we were all expecting a Hillary/McCain bash-fest, but here we are on election day watching the first major party African American candidate take a polling lead into the election.
Obama has run a superb campaign from start to finish and has a realistic shot at winning today. McCain has a serious problem in that he’s identified (correctly) with the party and people who brought us the economic calamity we’re facing. He made a couple of other errors, although I don’t believe Palin is one of them. She managed to get the Republicans all excited and ready to participate. All the folks making Sarah jokes weren’t going to vote McCain anyway.
Perhaps the mistake that took Obama over the top was McCain’s weird flip-flopping the week of the Bailout vote. It showed him to be indecisive and unable to make solid decisions in a time of crisis. It also revealed that despite his 372 years in the Senate, he doesn’t hold much sway over his brethern.
The media has played this out poorly. Obama has gotten a pass. While Hillary was pilloried, Palin excoriated, McCain judged severely, Obama got to walk into the fray and back out untouched. If McCain had a religious leader such as Wright leading his congregation for a couple of decades, he would be labeled all kinds of nasty things and the op-ed writers would come out with sharp knives. Not Obama, though. Perhaps it’s because it’s harder to attack a black candidate without being accused of crossing a line – a bitter lesson taught by the Obama campaign to the Clintons. Perhaps it’s because Obama is so inexperienced that he’s untouchable without a record on which to run. Perhaps it’s because people instinctively sense that change is necessary and he’s been perceived as the embodiment of change throughout the primaries and election season.
For the Jewish community, this has been a weird election. A huge number of emails circulated trying to tap into Jewish areas of concern by attacking Obama’s ancestry, religion, views about Israel, friends, etc. To fight those off, pro-Obama Jews circulated counter-emails, logged into discussion forums and blogs to debate their accusations, and hailed Obama as some sort of prince of goodness and wisdom. Revelations like Rev. Wright’s views and Obama’s faithful attendance at Wright’s church were attacked but mostly dismissed. Obama’s friendships with anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian pundits, diplomats, strategists and scholars were likewise mostly dismissed even as Obama opponents yelled and screamed to pay attention.
Ultimately, it appears the community will vote 70/30 Obama/McCain (our own unscientific poll below shows a similar divide). Not a bad showing for Obama, but not typical Democratic support, which usually hovers between 75-83% among Jews.
Unless some miracle happens, such as the Bradley Effect being a real issue, or voting dirty tricks winning the day, it looks as if Obama will preside over a country with a solid Democratic House – possibly even a filibuster proof Senate. The Republicans have been laying the groundwork for legal challenges, but a strong Democratic showing will eliminate that strategy rapidly.
Obama is an interesting candidate. He is a creature of the Left, not the Center. He does represent the people who are not in the center of the voting public and brings an understanding of being a member of a minority such as no President before him. No matter, the Republicans have handicapped the next President or three with Iraq, a destroyed economy and a national debt with such high interest payments that little is left for social projects. Obama will also face a House that may perceive their chances of being re-elected are stronger if they don’t follow Obama’s wish-list but stick to that of the lobbyists.
But make no mistake, if Obama is elected today, this will be extraordinary on many different levels. It will speak to the evolution of the United States away from the Leave it to Beaver age and into the multi-cultural age.