Kathleen Parker

To McCain's credit, he has tried to correct his audience -- when, for example, a woman said she couldn't trust Obama because he's an Arab. Gosh, wonder where she ever got that idea? But the McCain-Palin bad cop-good cop routine is what it is. The hot babe lathers the crowd; the noble soldier hoses them down. This isn't a campaign; it's a sideshow.

Nevertheless, it is fair to concede that a few fruitcakes -- those who yell epithets or make racial slurs -- are not representative of Republicans, any more than those now Photoshopping ugly (and violent) depictions of Palin should be considered typical of Democrats.

One can hope that the uglies will cancel each other out. That leaves an X Factor of possibly exponential proportions that includes not just the Bradleys, but the Reverse-Bradleys.

I've received too many e-mails and had too many conversations that began, "Just between you and me," and ended with, "I wouldn't want anyone at work to know," to believe that this is an insignificant trend.

Sitting quietly at their desks are an unknown number of discreet conservatives who surprise themselves as they mull their options. Appalled by McCain's erratic behavior, both in dealing with the financial crisis and his selection of an unsuitable running mate, they will quietly (and with considerable trepidation) vote for Obama.

Are they are worried about higher taxes, a premature withdrawal from Iraq, and Obama's inexperience in matters executive? You betcha. But they do not want to vote for a divisive, anti-intellectual ticket headed by a man who, though they admire him, lately has made them embarrassed to be Republicans.

Should Obama win, it will be in part because some number of quiet, mostly white-collar men and women who speak Republican in public voted Democratic in private.

Whatever the final tally, Obama should not interpret his victory as a mandate. Many of the Reverse-Bradley ballots won't have been votes cast for Obama, but against a campaign turned ugly. They also will have been delivered with solemn prayers that Obama will govern as the centrist, pragmatic leader he is capable of being.


Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
 
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