When this adjective defying season began in earnest—I'm calling it last November, 2007—nobody was sure about Barack Obama's race, religion or the meaning of his emerging candidacy, but everyone who was awake, across a wide range of viewpoints and media platforms, knew something very, very big was up.
Check this post from exactly 11 months ago, when the Times Roger Cohen and the Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan separately declared a major paradigm shift in the making.
And the earthquakes have kept on coming. Obama's racial ambiguity has melted into the comfortable (however loathsome) reality of the One-Drop Rule in effect: he is now unambiguously black. But, notwithstanding the increasingly rabid passion in some quarters to paint him a similar shade of black as old bogeymen like Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson or Louis Farrahahn, he remains a black man with no black baggage. The teflon I saw coating his blackness last January has hardened into steel.
Hilary Clinton's racinating (ok, my word) bullets ultimately bounced off, though they made enough of a dent to confirm the McCain strategists best worst instincts. The only way to beat Obama was to make him the alien (as in "he's just not like us") threat. Here's a partial list of the attributes that were supposed to prove it:
- He's an eloquent Ivy League intellectual
- He's a Muslim
- He's a friend of (a) terrorists
- He's a Chicago machine pol
- He's hiding something
- He can't really be known, much less trusted
- He doesn't share our culture
McCain tapped the perfect pair of high heels on which to mount this barrage in Sarah Palin, and the base has been fed a rich diet of red meat ever since. But the problem is that the Republicans misread the depth and breadth of resonance for these race-rooted attacks in white America. In another year, even as recently as 2004, it could very well have worked. But not with the full fury of eight years of Bush Administration near-criminal negligence coming to a crecendo as the financial crisis hit.
But give Obama credit for his own agency in the victory march: he refined his indictment of Bush/Republican economic policies to a fine point, brought them home effectively against McCain in the debates, and articulated his own policy points in a cool, presidential manner. Period.
Now debate No. 3 has come and gone and the outcome is clear. Truth stands and then rests; the lies, near exhaustion, keep wandering in search of a home.
America is playing out the last pages of the last act of it's first 232 years of racial drama. It is not too soon to start talking about what has been swept away, marked for the ash bin of history, as the curtain begins to fall. In January I wrote:
Is America past race? Hell no. Does America really want to get past race? Hell yes; the only question is how bad.
Now we know: I had it wrong.
America is not about to elect Obama because it wants to get past race, though many of his supporters passionately desire it. America is preparing itself to get past race because it wants--perhaps desparately needs--to elect Obama over John McCain and Sarah Palin in 2008. This is the full flower of the opportunity for a fundemental shift in the nature of American identity that I thought I saw coming via popular culture when I wrote American Skin in 2002.
My point is not my ego, that I saw it coming; I had no idea it would lead here so soon. My point is to ...prophesy...to talk in light of my faith and scripture about a vision of for where we must go from here, and to report on what is shared with me by others with a similar vision.