Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Known quantity, unknown result

A savvy reader on Andrew Sullivan's blog points out that outside the beltway, it's Obama, not McCain, who's the 'known quantity':
America is literally obsessed with him. He's a celebrity candidate who became a celebrity by running for president; he's been discussed, debated, and argued over on television, in newspapers, in political magazines, in gossip magazines, on the internet, among every age group, every demographic, every race, and in every subset of American life....

On top of all this, Obama has the lopsided money advantage, the lopsided enthusiasm advantage, the lopsided technology advantage, the lopsided earned media advantage, the lopsided paid media advantage, the lopsided volunteer and voter registration advantage, the lopsided issue advantage, the lopsided party advantage, and the lopsided ground army advantage.
All true. And that star quality, along with a once-in-a-generation national political realignment toward the Democrats, may be just enough to elect a black man President of the United States -- just enough to overcome conscious and unconscious prejudice plus the genuine cultural dissonance between many Americans and an African American who came to political awareness among black campus activists and South side Chicago church organizers. Even after a post-nomination-battle bounce, Obama polls only slightly ahead of McCain, barely outside the margin of error.

What a risk the Democratic Party is taking. It's a brave risk, and I think it's an intelligent one -- a doubling down on "the fierce urgency of now"-- but it's a huge risk. In a year when Gore, Kerry, Edwards, Clinton -- even, say, Gephardt -- could have won the presidency easily, we've electrified the world as well as ourselves (per the reader's observations above) by trying to get done something no one would have dreamed possible two or three years ago. The lack of experience, the unique perspective, the unique quality of mind and the almost surreal electoral savvy of this political sport of nature-- even leaving aside race, Obama's a terrific gamble.

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