Monday, November 3, 2008

Dreaming of Tomorrow

It's election day in the US tomorrow. Regardless of the outcome, it will be written about in 21st century history books--world history, as well as American. I feel like it's Christmas Eve, and I don't know how I'll sleep tonight. The entire world is now watching the US, waiting for the future to arrive.

Here are a few thought about the election, Obama, and the world after tomorrow:

The Democrat should win

Bush and his party are at historic levels of unpopularity, the economy is in the dumps, and Americans are tired of the status quo. After his reelection in 2004 Bush declared arrogantly that he had earned political capital and intended to spend it. Well, he's spent it all, and then some... Eight years of his rule has left his party in ruins, politically. The Democrats could be running a donkey as their candidate, and the donkey should be leading in the polls, simply based on the Republican's deep decline.

McCain is a good man, honorable and respectable. His campaign, however, has been none of these things. He has always had a reputation of being independent, reasonable and a sort of Republican-lite. It's why, after 8 years of bad Republican governance, the party chose him to lead it, to take the party in a new, more reasonable direction. So what did his campaign do? It threw away everything that made McCain unique and rebranded him as a hardcore conservative, God-fearing, gun-loving GOP'er. He's abandoned his principles and for that he deserves to lose.

Obama is a new voice

What's fascinating about Obama's personality, is how cool he is. The Republicans have called him every name in the book and tried every kind of smear. They've worked extremely hard to instill fear in Americans--and it's worked so well for them in the past. But Obama has cultivated a really powerful vision of change. He believes in America that overcomes and transcends the fear that has gripped the country since the September 11th attacks. And America is tired of being afraid.

It's so interesting to hear Obama's critics put him down as a celebrity, as being all style and little substance. The truth is that what has makes him so successful is not his charisma (like Clinton) or his easygoing warmth (like Bush in 2000). It's the absence of the folksy, have-a-bear-with characteristics that I think really resonate with people. When I see him on TV, hear his speeches and interviews, he actually comes across a bit cold and a bit detached--as well as thoughful, composed and that word pundits love to use derisively, 'professorial'. But the fact is, after 8 years of a folsky, fratboy president, a professor at the helm sounds pretty good. Obama inspires people because he conveys the substance of honesty and principles. He looks like a man who is determined to do things the right way. People are hungry for that.

If Obama wins, optimism will reign

I can't help but be caught up in the spirit of Obama, That is, when I see the image of a black president being sworn in, of a Democrat meeting international leaders, of a moderate voice speaking from the White House, I get excited. When I think of all the black children around the country--or any child that thinks themselves disadvantaged, in any part of the world--watching Obama do what many thought was impossible, my heart is warmed. When I think of the idea of a fair and sensible man, with dignity and honour, being in public office I am relieved that such a thing could still be possible. There is so much to be gloomy about these days. There has been so much harm done by the US, at home and abroad. An Obama presidency would be a lot to brighten people up.

If Obama wins, so much will NOT change

Yes, there's a lot of hope and a lot of hype that surrounds Obama. However, the reality is that as smart and popular and inspirational as President Obama would be, the road ahead is one of the most treacherous in modern history. The country is at war, the economy is flaccid, the debt and deficit is gargantuan, society is divided, the government is gridlocked and the environment is deteriorating. No one leader can solve all of this. And for people to get their hopes up that he will--in his first term--make everything magically better is foolish, to say the least.

Perhaps the biggest way the people think Obama will bring change is race. People think if America votes in Obama, it will prove racism has been finally vanquished in America. The sad fact is that racists won't disappear on November 5th. Indeed, they will be outraged and mobilized like never before. There will still be discrimination. There will still be disadvantaged blacks struggling to make ends meet. Yes, he would be--and is--a powerful symbol, but he is human (despite what McCain and Palin might say in desperation) and simply will not live up to all the expectations swirling around him.

America's electoral system is a catastrofuck!

While I'm excited about watching the election tomorrow, there's a part of me that's queezy. Frankly, I'm afraid the election will be stolen from Obama by Republican state government chicanery. I think it's insane that US elections are conducted in invidual counties by individual partisan-controlled state governments using a cornocopia of technologies that are expensive and often break down. In Canada we vote using pencils and paper, placing an X in a box beside the candidate we want to elect. An independent federal agency called Elections Canada administers and controls the process, free of partisan interference. All you need to vote is proof of address and picture ID. You don't need to declare yourself as a supporter of any one party and you don't have to register by any deadline. It's simple, and it works! The US system opens itself up to so many problems that I feel like tomorrow's election is just asking to be tampered with or outright stolen. I pray for a decisive win, because if it's close, pandora's box will explode like a neutron bomb, with recounts, revelations of disenfranchisement, lawsuits, and a wave of righteous anger.

If Obama loses, there will be chaos.

All the polls are saying Obama is ahead. They're saying he's leading in enough states to win the election. They say even if all the toss-up states go Red, and even if most undecideds go for McCain, Obama should still win if his numbers are stable. There is widespread expectation that he will be victorious.

However, it's pretty safe to say tomorrow will be a gong-show at polling stations. An unprecedented turnout is expected. Lines will snake through buildings and around street corners. Convoluted voting machines will break down. Many will give up after standing hours on their feet. Voter Registration redtape and typos will block some from casting their ballots. And if, after all this, McCain somehow emerges as the winner, there will be shock and anger of epic preportions. It would put the essense of American democracy in doubt and would tear the country into racial and generational factions. Blame would fly in every direction: "Republicans stole it!" "Whites stole it!" "The old establishment stole it!"

To be honest, I'm a bit scared. Let's just say, riots, are the least of what I think will take place if the result is widely seen as illegitimate, or even if the result isn't clear by the end of tomorrow night.

An assassination attempt on Obama is a question of when, not if

It pains me greatly to even write those words. However, as I've written, the racists in America will not go quietly if Obama is elected. Indeed, as long as Obama is in the White House there will be a enormous and constant risk to his life. And as large and skilled the Secret Service team is, I just don't think they can prevent an attempt on Obama's life. America has a long tradition of killing it's inspirational leaders. From Lincoln to JFK to Martin Luther King. Even old, white, Republicans have been shot (Ronald Reagan) though not fatally. I can't help but think this inspirational biography will end like so many--tragically.

Of course, I hope I'm wrong. And maybe I don't actually believe it will happen, but am just protecting myself, so that if he ever does get shot, I won't be as devastated and cynical. The worst possible scenario in my mind is him getting shot before he has a chance to truly make his mark, like Inauguration Day, or even Election Day, at the height of celebration and optimism about his presidency. If that happens, even I, all the way in Canada, might riot in the streets.

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