As we stand at the junction of two divergent paths, there are many possible roads which may lead us to our next president.
With two disastrous terms of the Bush administration coming to a close, the next leader will inherit two war fronts, an economic crisis of epic proportions (the worst of which we have yet to see), a national debt ballooning out of control, and no clear answers to the health care issue. Honestly, if I were John McCain or Barack Obama, losing would almost be a gift. Well, almost.
For John McCain a win would finally mean the ultimate redemption for a lackluster early life, one filled with less than stellar educational performances, a spotty naval record which at times bordered on recklessness, and ultimately, a failed marriage which showcased more about his character than his 25 years of "mavericky" civil service to his country. Don't get me wrong, there are things I like about John McCain; regrettably, few of those qualities made it to the surface during his preposterously run campaign.
And what about Barack Obama? He's not perfect either. Obama freely admits to drug experimentation during his formative years, something he's not proud of, and with good reason. And then there's Jeremiah Wright, his former pastor. To be frank, I don't like that guy, not one bit. Wright is too angry and lacking temperance for a religious leader to my taste. Of all the questionable characters in Obama's life, Wright is the worst. But then again, Barack Obama is like many of us in this world — he tries hard to look past the negatives and see the good in people, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Neither McCain nor Obama is perfect, but they are who we have to choose between for president and if the way a person runs their campaign is any indication of their leadership skills, Obama is the clear winner by a landslide.
So today, when each of us goes into that polling booth to cast our ballots, we will have many reasons for our choice. Some will choose John McCain because they are Republicans and this is their candidate. Some will choose Barack Obama because they are Democrats and this is their candidate. Some will think it doesn't matter who they choose because all politicians are the same and may just flip a coin (I don't recommend this method). Sadly, some will choose the white guy because they don't trust black people, and some will choose the black guy because they don't trust white people.
But there's another factor in all of this that I hadn't even considered, but when you ponder it, the demographics fit and the reality is obvious. There will be some who will choose Barack Obama because they were part of an educational system which taught them a person is the sum total of their essence, not simply a shell of their outward appearance. You know, that whole "all men are created equal," which really is, all other factors notwithstanding, the truth.
Kent Smith, a Democratic community organizer here in Cleveland and now an author, is as close to being a polling expert as a person is going to find. At a party this weekend at our friend Chris Butler's house, I took the opportunity to ask Kent a couple of important questions about the upcoming election.
First thing I wanted to know was, "Is Barack Obama as great as I think he is?" Kent answered without pause, "No, he is isn't." That was not the answer I was expecting from a man who's spent much of his free time canvassing neighborhoods and organizing voter drives in support of Obama. But, like many of the conservative pundits have shown us recently, even partisan politics needs a dose of reality from time to time.
Kent went on to explain that Obama, like all politicians, is still a politician. He will make promises he can't keep and do things that will not always work out and cautioned me to have realistic expectations, because, as he pointed out, we are in a real mess. Seeing how taken aback I was at his response, he did say there was indeed a silver lining: in the last 40 years Barack Obama is as close to the "real deal" as we can hope for, and that's something to be excited about. An honest answer, minus the sugar coating.
Eric and I asked him about how Ohio would do in the election and was there truly a "Bradley effect" to be concerned about. Kent said yes, absolutely, but that ultimately the Bradley effect could possibly be negated by something he called the "Brown vs. The Board of Education effect."
This, Smith explained, is the demographic change we will see slowly take place like a wave over our nation as the older baby boomers/greatest generation — to put it bluntly — die. I had asked how the pockets of "racially" confused voters in Ohio could adjust the current polls, and if the Mason-Dixon line was going to muck things up for Obama. Kent said it wasn't the Mason-Dixon line, but rather the ages of the voters that will decide the race.
Demographically speaking, those of us who grew up to believe that segregation was wrong, were inspired by Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement, and were educated about the importance of color-blindness via landmark decisions like Brown vs. The Board of Education, will be more inclined to vote for Obama. Not because he is African-American, but simply because his unique world vision is representative of how we envision the future. Or, to put it in the great words of Agent J from Men in Black, "McCain/Palin are the old and busted, and Obama/Biden are the new hotness."
The GenXers and the young baby boomers get it, by and large. The policies of the Republican party and the dusty politicians of the past aren't the way of the future, they're the way of the past. Obama represents the diversity of our nation and the trend towards a global world. Kent said this trend of "colorblindness" will continue to grow in even greater numbers in the next generation, which we are already seeing.
Kent even postulated that if Obama wins tomorrow and is re-elected in 2012 that in eight years, a racially diverse government will be the norm, not the exception and the Bradley effect will be something we talk about only in the history books. To some this is probably a frightening concept, but in the long run, the children of the future will thank those of us who stood as sentinels to usher in a new and better world for people of all backgrounds.