McCain is pushing and, it seems, a lot of otherwise respectable commentators are commenting that Barack Obama should be doing better than he is and that, in the 2008 presidential election, John McCain is the underdog.
This idea is laughable on its face, of course, because Barack Obama is black, is named Barack Hussein Obama, and is a largely unknown quantity. The idea that because the economy is tanking, he should be running circles around a white, establishment war hero is ridiculous. Frankly, the fact that Obama is doing as well as he is, is a testament to how badly the GOP has managed the country.
There are some people who point out that in the congressional races, Dems seems to be surging. They’ve won three straight special elections in formerly Republican districts and they are polling well across the country. Obama, they argue, should be riding this wave to an insurmountable lead in the polls.
Here’s why that is nonsense:
1. Recent history demonstrates that Americans seem to prefer a divided government as a check against partisan abuse. Certainly, GOP bungling has given the the electorate ample evidence of what happens when one party controls the legislative and executive. While voters at this point seem to be ready to “toss the bum out” of their local district, they may be hesitant to do so on a national scale. Obama has his work cut out for him to convince the country that it should be governed by Democrats in both the Capitol Building and the White House.
2. Obama is faced not only with the task of introducing himself to America, but of convincing them that he is fit to be president. Pundits inside the beltway and out assume that because they know who Barack Obama is that everyone does. But Americans are still learning about Obama and figuring who he is, what he stands for, and, most importantly, if he can be trusted. These kinds of evaluations take time. Not everyone sat breathlessly watching every primary season debate. What America is going through now is a learning process and their hesitancy to fully embrace him is normal.
3. America has always harbored a deep antipathy to intellectualism. Obama, with his seemingly easy mastery of complex policy issues and his somewhat abstemious habits, probably comes off as a bit of an egghead. This is not a worry. He is more than that, clearly. But don’t underestimate this hostility as a factor as Americans continue to assess him. John Kerry’s simply looking French was enough to upset his apple cart in 2004.
4. As noted, Barack Obama is black. The recent uproar about “the race card” is just the beginning of what will be an issue from now until election day. Every reasonable person knows exactly what Obama was talking about and, furthermore, why McCain denounced it. Race is the big, black elephant in this room. Obama won’t bring it up again, but McCain (or, rather, his surrogates) surely will. To believe that America (and the GOP) has moved beyond this issue (and strategy) is either naive or cynical. The media understands this, but they don’t care. They just want a good dog fight.
The bottom line here is that John McCain is, if anything, the favorite. He is the privileged son of America’s ruling elite with a dirty and deeply manipulative political team behind him. The economy is tanking hard, but people vote with their emotions, and right now they are torn between the full scale disaster unfolding before us and all of the issues noted above.
But don’t be fooled, there is only one true underdog in this fight. His name is Barack Hussein Obama.