What will happen if, on election night in November, John McCain wins the presidency? Will it necessarily be determined that Obama’s defeat is the result of a conspiracy? A fraud? Or something worse?
Much has been said and written in recent months about the historical and cultural significance of the Obama nomination, and the would-be Obama presidency. Obama, himself, seems to place no limits on his own historical and cultural significance. At age 46, he has already authored two books - - both are about himself - - and the securing of his party’s nomination marked, according to him, the moment when our nation began to “heal..”
But what if Obama’s seemingly inevitable destiny - - that of “change agent President” - - was abruptly cut short? I’m not hinting here at the possibility of an assassin’s bullet (I’ll leave it to Hillary Clinton to suggest such things). I’m merely stating the obvious. The first Black American to secure the presidential nomination of a major political party could end up losing the election. If that were to happen, then what would the historical and cultural significance of that event be?
I first raised this question about five months ago, during some of the ugliest days of Obama’s primary election struggle with the race-baiting Clintons. In a private conversation over lunch in Washington, a friend and former Bush Administration staffer told me “Obama is a much more formidable candidate than many Republicans think. And while I disagree with him on policy issues, there is part of me that really believes that electing this guy President would go a long way towards healing the black-white rift in our country.”
“But does the inverse of that hold true?” I asked. “If he
makes it to the general election but then loses, are black-white relations made worse?”
“I don’t want to think about that” my friend replied after a long pause. “There could be trouble in the streets.”
That was in February. And since that conversation, I’ve repeatedly experienced people hinting at similar concerns in a variety of different contexts. I see it in email messages from readers of this column. I hear it from listeners to my own talk radio program at Washington, DC’s 630 WMAL, and the many other talk shows I guest host around the country.
And this past week I heard it in the most explicit terms. While speaking with a friend who is a yacht broker in the affluent Santa Monica coastal region of Southern California, I asked “what do people in your circles have to say about the presidential election? Are they even talking about it? What do they say?”
“Yes, people are talking about it” my friend assured me. “It’s assumed that Obama will win. But if he doesn’t, there’s a fear that South-Central LA will erupt in riots, kind of like what happened after the trial of the cops that beat Rodney King in 1992.”
Think about it. On both implicit and explicit levels, Obama’s rhetoric suggests that the annoyances, the risks, the hardships and insecurities of your existence are the result of various injustices done to you, and that he alone can correct those injustices.
If a business executive earns exponentially more money than you do, this is an injustice and he will correct it. If you bought a house and are now having difficulty making the payments, this is an injustice and he will correct it. If you do not have “free healthcare,” this is an injustice and he will correct it. The fact that nuclear weapons exist in the world is an injustice, and he will correct it. If you purchased toys imported from China that turned out to be defective, that is an injustice and he will correct it (yes, he actually delivered a speech entitled “Safer Toys For Our Children” in Iowa last December, two days after Christmas). And if you believe, as he apparently does, that “rich people” just simply “have too much already,” well that is most certainly an injustice and he will correct it.
Combine these dynamics of entitlement and “justice” with the reality that we live in an era of historical and constitutional illiteracy, and it’s not difficult to imagine how anything short of an Obama presidency could be viewed by some in America as yet another injustice. And if Obama’s inevitable destiny is disrupted by something so trivial as the American electorate, this could be deemed an injustice that trumps all others.